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Clinton Takes Victory in Nevada After Hard-Fought Battle With Sanders

February 20, 2016, 10:12 PM UTC
Democratic Presidential Candidates Hold First Debate In Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 13: Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (L) and Hillary Clinton take part in a presidential debate sponsored by CNN and Facebook at Wynn Las Vegas on October 13, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Five Democratic presidential candidates are participating in the party's first presidential debate. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Photograph by Joe Raedle—Getty Images

Hillary Clinton declared victory early on Saturday afternoon in the Nevada caucuses, holding off an intense push by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in recent weeks to break her support among Latinos and African Americans.

It is an important milestone for Clinton, who continues to face doubts about her strength after a crushing defeat in New Hampshire. Early reports in Nevada indicated she won a majority of African American voters, and she will leave the state with renewed confidence.

But with a majority of caucus sites reporting, Clinton is just over 52 percent, with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at 48 percent, Clinton’s lead is narrower than she hoped for. Already, it is clear that Clinton will be in for a longer fight than anticipated.

Clinton’s campaign had a significant headstart in the race in Nevada and was clearly leading the Sanders campaign until just a few weeks ago. But Sanders poured money into the state, outspending Clinton in advertisements on radio and television at first, though Clinton spent slightly more in the past couple weeks. He also had double the Clinton staff on the ground.

Regardless of Clinton’s win, Sanders has already shown he can narrow the gap with Clinton, presaging a more difficult fight for the once-presumptive frontrunner.

On the night of the New Hampshire primary, Sanders’ aides said internal numbers showed them gaining on Clinton. When he won the state by a 22-point margin, Clinton supporters pointed to Sanders’ weakness among Latino and African-American voters as her saving grace.

The first big test of the former was Nevada on Saturday; for the latter, South Carolina one week from now.

Both campaigns made a hard effort to reach out to Latinos. Sanders brought in undocumented immigrants and DREAMers from Phoenix and elsewhere to canvass for him in Spanish-speaking areas of Las Vegas. Clinton aired an emotional television ad that featured her comforting a girl with undocumented parents.

In the hours before the caucus, both Clinton and Sanders toured the hotels on the strip in a last-ditch effort to convince caucus-goers to support them.

Sanders walked through the MGM Grand hotel employee lunch room, accompanied by his wife and a train of Secret Service agents. He cupped his hand and waved. “How are you!” he shouted at the workers who chanted his name. One MGM grand employee, Caridad Capdevila, ran up and gave Sanders a loving hug. “He’s with the people” she said in halting English.

Clinton visited the Harrah employee cafeteria to cheers of “Hillary Hillary!” Clinton stood for selfies with the employees and directed them to the caucus location. “I need your help this morning, in the show room. 11 a.m.,” she repeated as she walked around. “I need your help. The showroom.”

Clinton surrogates toured the state, including America Ferrera and her husband, President Bill Clinton and duaghter Chelsea in the days before the caucus. Rep. Joaquin Castro, a representative of Texas, nd twin brother to talked-about vice presidential pick Julian Castro, greeted caucus-goers in the New York New York Hotel. “We need you,” Castro told them.

Meanwhile, the National Nurses United, a union that has thrown its support behind Bernie Sanders, sent 200 red-clad nurses to Nevada, and they patrolled caucus places and pitched their candidate. Just feet away from Castro, nurses lobbied Clinton supporters. “He’s not bought and paid for,” one nurse, Maria Bell, told a woman with a Clinton sticker.

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