Political Energy Electrifies Nevada Ahead of Bellwether Caucus
Nevada’s unpredictable electorate and “fractured Latino vote” are in the spotlight on the eve of the state’s Democratic caucus, with polls showing Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders going into Saturday’s contest neck-and-neck.
While the Silver State was supposed to be a lock for Clinton, recent endorsements (and non-endorsements) and demonstrable voter enthusiasm have signaled a Sanders surge that’s backed up by polling.
As The New Republic explained, “Nevada offers a much different terrain” than Iowa or New Hampshire: “The state’s population is 28 percent Latino, 8 percent Asian-American, and 9 percent African-American.”
“Sanders needs to prove he can win over Latinos, Asian-Americans, and African-Americans—there’s no other way that he can seriously compete for the nomination,” wrote TNR‘s Jeet Heer. “Clinton, conversely, needs to prove that her ‘firewall’ of non-white support, which she’s also counting on in the upcoming Southern primaries, is going to be strong enough to block Sanders.”
Des Moines Register reporter Jennifer Jacobs wrote on Friday:
Indeed, “the fractured Latino vote threatens to further erode Clinton’s aura as the party’s nominee-in-waiting,” the Guardian reported on Friday.
While Clinton “still maintains the backing of Nevada’s older, democratic establishment, including a string of prominent Latino figures…look beyond the endorsements from prominent figures, such as civil rights leaders Astrid Silva and Dolores Huerta and actor Eva Longoria, and the Latino community’s alliances begins to fray,” the paper continued, writing:
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Meanwhile, the Clark County Black Caucus, an organization located in Nevada’s largest county, endorsed Sanders late Thursday. And the Sanders campaign on Friday launched its #AmericaTogether hashtag, which highlights the Vermont senator’s multicultural appeal.
To that end, the Clinton campaign has appeared to be trying to lower expectations, painting Nevada as a largely-white state.
“There’s an important Hispanic element to the Democratic caucus in Nevada, but it’s still a state that is 80% white voters,” Brian Fallon, the Clinton campaign press secretary, said last week. “You have a caucus-style format, and he’ll have the momentum coming out of New Hampshire presumably, so there’s a lot of reasons he should do well.”
Renowned Nevada pundit Jon Ralston scoffed at that “canard,” noting that “Nevada’s Hispanic population is about 27 percent,” and that “nearly half of the state’s population is made up of minorities.”
According to Politico, Sanders’ surge in Nevada has been served by his “ability to tap directly into the bloodstream of Nevada progressives.”
Or, as University of Nevada-Las Vegas English instructor and restaurant server Brittany Bronson wrote in a New York Times op-ed on Friday:
“With its relatively few delegates, Nevada isn’t a do-or-die state—but its diversity does make it a bellwether state,” Heer wrote at TNR. “If Sanders can pull off a win on Saturday, or even if he comes close, it’ll be clear that his revolution has real legs.”
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