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Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Sanders wins in Nevada, Biden to finish second

Sanders had 47% of county convention delegates in Nevada with 50% of the precincts reported

LAS VEGAS : Bernie Sanders strengthened his front-runner position for the Democratic presidential nomination with a decisive victory in the Nevada caucuses on Saturday, while Joe Biden was on track for a second-place finish that would give his struggling campaign new hope.

A self-described democratic socialist, Sanders was backed by a diverse coalition of young and middle-aged voters, Latinos, union members and white college-educated women for the win in Nevada, according to Edison Research, showing signs of expanding support for his surging campaign beyond his longstanding core.

“We have put together a multi-generational, multiracial coalition that is going to not only win in Nevada, it’s going to sweep the country," Sanders, a US senator from Vermont, told cheering supporters in San Antonio, Texas.

Biden, a former vice-president, appeared to score a badly needed strong finish after poor showings in the first two contests in Iowa and New Hampshire for the party’s nomination to face Republican President Donald Trump in the November election.

Sanders’ triumph in the first racially diverse state suggests his unapologetic message of social and economic justice, including his signature pledge to provide universal healthcare for all Americans, is resonating with a broader coalition of Democratic voters.

For Biden and other moderates who argue that Sanders is too liberal to beat Trump and who have been trying to blunt his momentum, however, the job has become much harder.

Sanders had 47% of the county convention delegates in Nevada with 50% of the precincts reported. Biden was a distant second to Sanders with 19%, but ahead of former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, in third place with 15%.

“The press is ready to declare people dead quickly, but we’re alive and we’re coming back and we’re gonna win," Biden told supporters in Las Vegas on Saturday night.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, who had been looking to jump-start her campaign after poor finishes in the first two states, was again trailing in a disappointing fourth with more than 10% in Nevada, where voters poured into more than 250 sites around the state. Senator Amy Klobuchar and activist billionaire Tom Steyer were well back at around 4%. Buttigieg cautioned Democrats about nominating Sanders, portraying him as an ideologue.

“We can prioritize either ideological purity or inclusive victory. We can either call people names online or we can call them into our movement. We can either tighten a narrow and hardcore base or open the tent to a new, broad, big-hearted American coalition," Buttigieg told supporters in Las Vegas.

Despite another poor showing in Nevada, Warren said she got a boost in fundraising and support from an aggressive debate performance on Wednesday - which came too late to affect early voting in the state.

“We have a lot of states to go, and right now I can feel the momentum," Warren said at a rally in Seattle.

The race now begins to broaden across the country, with the next primary on 29 February in South Carolina, followed by the Super Tuesday contests in 14 states on 3 March that pick more than one-third of the pledged delegates who will help select a Democratic nominee.

Biden, vice president under former president Barack Obama, is counting on a strong showing in South Carolina, which has a large bloc of black voters. In Nevada, entrance polls showed Biden led among African Americans with 36%, followed by Sanders with 27%.reuters

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