Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders scored a decisive victory in the Nevada presidential caucuses, solidifying both his front-runner status and fears among Democratic opponents that he’s too liberal — and yet unstoppable.
Early returns showed the self-proclaimed “democratic socialist” with a commanding 36-point lead over his closest rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, establishing the self-proclaimed “democratic socialist” as the clear front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination.
“Don’t tell anybody,” Sanders quipped Saturday night at a rally in San Antonio.
“I don’t want to get them nervous. But we’re going to win the Democratic primary in Texas,” Sanders told the Texan crowd, to cheers.
Sanders has already shifted his sights to Texas and Super Tuesday, positioning himself to further grow his delegate lead during the 14-state sweepstakes on March 3rd.
Biden’s lackluster performance was still the strongest showing yet for the former veep, who fell far short in the party’s first two nominating contests.
“Y’all did it for me! Now we’re on our way to South Carolina!” where the next primary will be held Feb. 29, he told supporters in Las Vegas.
“The press is ready to declare people dead quickly,” Biden said. “But we’re alive and we’re coming back and we’re gonna win.”
The Democrats’ contests in Iowa and New Hampshire both ended in near-ties between Sanders and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
But those states are overwhelmingly white — making Nevada, whose electorate is about 40 percent black and Hispanic, a major test for Buttigieg’s viability as the nomination battle moves on to similarly diverse states.
Buttigieg, who was in fourth place, behind Sen. Elizabeth Warren, by 9 p.m., slammed the winner at a post-caucuses rally in Las Vegas.
“Sen. Sanders believes in an inflexible ideological revolution that leaves out most Democrats, not to mention most Americans,” he said, imploring the party to turn away from the front-runner in upcoming contests.
President Trump trolled the Democratic presidential contenders with a sarcastic message of congratulations for Sen. Bernie Sanders on his apparent victory in the Nevada caucuses.
“Looks like Crazy Bernie is doing well in the Great State of Nevada,” Trump tweeted Saturday night. “Biden & the rest look weak, & no way Mini Mike can restart his campaign after the worst debate performance in the history of Presidential Debates.”
“Don’t let them take it away from you!” he told the Vermont senator.
The contest did not include Mike Bloomberg, who entered the presidential race too late to participate in its first four primaries and caucuses.
Trump has hit Bloomberg with repeated Twitter insults in recent days over his wipeout in this week’s Democratic debate.
It took five hours for party officials to tally its first 10 percent of the caucus vote, confirming worries about behind-the-scenes trouble with its counting procedures.
Nearly 75,000 people cast early ballots ahead of Saturday’s vote, the first contest in a state where whites make up less than half of the population.
Nevada’s caucus process is similar to the one used in Iowa Feb. 3, which dissolved into turmoil when a glitchy new app developed to help count the vote failed to function.
Nevada abandoned plans to use the Iowa app and cobbled together a system that uses iPads preloaded with a new tool to count the vote and incorporate early-vote totals. Party officials insisted that precinct volunteers had been thoroughly trained — but warned that final results might not be tallied Saturday.
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