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Blog: Hillary Clinton beats Bernie Sanders in Nevada Democratic caucuses

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Steve Marcus

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton arrives with former President Bill Clinton at Caesars Palace to give a victory speech Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016, after winning the Nevada caucuses.

Updated Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016 | 4:28 p.m.

Click to enlarge photo

Bernie Sanders speaks briefly during a caucus watch party and supporter rally at the Henderson Pavilion as the Nevada results continue to come in.

Hillary Clinton Wins Nevada Caucus

Former President Bill Clinton and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton wave after Hillary Clinton's victory speech at Caesars Palace Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016. Launch slideshow »

Democratic Caucus at Caesars Palace

Supporters of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders chant outside the caucus site at Caesars Palace Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016. Launch slideshow »

Democratic Caucus at Rancho High

Hillary Clinton campaign volunteers work to post signs across the street from the Democratic Caucus which begins soon at Rancho High School on Saturday, February 20, 2016. Launch slideshow »

Hillary Clinton has won the Nevada Democratic caucuses, rebounding after a second-place finish to Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire.

"Thank you, Nevada, thank you so much!" Clinton told her supporters in a victory speech. "I am so thrilled and so grateful. Some may have doubted us, but we never doubted each other. This one's for you."

Sanders, who called to congratulate Clinton, said he was proud of his campaign, which turned a 25-point polling deficit into a close election.

"I am also proud of the fact that we have brought many working people and young people into the political process and believe that we have the wind at our back as we head toward Super Tuesday," he said.

The victory for the former secretary of state over the Vermont senator gives her two wins to one in the race for the Democratic nomination.

Clinton eked out a win in the Iowa caucuses before Sanders posted an overwhelming victory in New Hampshire's primary.

Surveys of caucusgoers taken as they entered caucus sites showed that older women turned out in force to support Clinton, pushing her to victory despite her continued struggles to attract young women.

The competition heads next to South Carolina, which holds its Democratic primary next Saturday.

Here's a look at how it all unfolded:

4 p.m.

In a 15-minute victory speech, Hillary Clinton thanked her supporters for turning out to caucus for her today. She gave particular thanks to hotel and casino workers, whom she said “never wavered.”

She also congratulated Bernie Sanders on what she called a “hard-fought effort” here but went after him again, saying the United States is not a “single-issue country.”

“We need more than a plan for the big banks,” Clinton said. “The middle class needs a raise.”

In a statement, Sanders congratulated Clinton in her victory in the Nevada contest but stressed the strength of his own campaign here.

“Five weeks ago we were 25 points behind and we ended up in a very close election,” Sanders said. “And we probably will leave Nevada with a solid share of the delegates.”

3:06 p.m.

Clinton’s supporters were still waiting for her to arrive at a ballroom at Caesars Palace, where loud music pumped through speakers and an excited crowd anticipated her arrival.

But Clinton has already addressed her win in a series of tweets.

“To everyone who turned out in every corner of Nevada with determination and heart: This is your win. Thank you,” Clinton said in a tweet, signed with an “H” designating the tweet was written by Clinton herself.

3:05 p.m.

In two tweets this afternoon, Sanders thanked Nevadans for their support, as multiple news outlets called the race for his opponent.

“I am very proud of the campaign we ran,” Sanders said. “Five weeks ago we were 25 points behind and we ended up in a very close election.”

The tight race in Nevada could help Sanders moving forward, political experts have said, proving he can hold his own in a more diverse state like Nevada.

“I want to thank the people of Nevada for the support they have given us and the boost that their support will give us as we go forward,” Sanders said.

3 p.m.

Democratic strategist Jon Summers at the Nevada Democrats’ Results Reporting Center said the party was aware of reports of long lines and delays during check-ins.

“Frankly it’s what we expected,” he said, noting many people showed up just before the caucuses were set to begin.

“You never want people to be inconvenienced in the process, but we’re just glad to see the turnout that we’ve seen in the caucuses,” he said.

Regarding a report from Del Webb Middle School, where Sanders supporters said the caucus leader didn’t let them pitch their candidate, Summers said the party had not heard about the incident and that, so far, neither campaign had raised any grievances.

“From everything we’ve seen so far, everything has gone relatively smoothly,” he said.

Here's a look at how it all unfolded:

3 p.m.

A CBS exit poll showed Clinton losing Hispanic voters to Sanders, 45 percent to 53 percent. Still, results showed Clinton winning most of the neighborhoods with the highest percentage of Hispanic residents.

The exit poll also showed her performing significantly better with black voters, with 76 percent support.

Women also tended to support Clinton more, with 57 percent of them caucusing for Clinton and 41 percent for Sanders.

As in Iowa and New Hampshire, it appears Sanders handily won the youth vote. Of voters 17 to 29 years old, 82 percent caucused for Sanders, while 62 percent of voters age 30 to 44 caucused for him as well.

2:25 p.m.

Following the Associated Press and others, CNN called the race for Clinton, to the cheers and applause of her supporters waiting at a rally at a ballroom at Caesars Palace, where CNN was playing on TV monitors.

The crowd erupted in chants of “Hillary, Hillary, Hillary” and choruses of cheers.

2:15 p.m.

Clinton won all six Strip precincts — Caesars Palace, Harrah’s, Wynn, Paris, the Rio and New York-New York.

Among the six sites, Clinton won 88 delegates to Sanders’ 52 delegates. Over the last week, Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, both campaigned at Strip casinos, urging workers to turn out to vote today.

Sanders campaigned at the casinos Friday, too, but Strip workers ultimately were in Clinton’s favor.

At Caesars Palace, the support for Clinton was overwhelming with more than a hundred of her supporters donning shirts that said “I’m with her” and “Estoy contigo.”

2:14 p.m.

More than 200 Nevada caucusgoers filed into classrooms at Rancho High School today, and of the 59 in Precinct 4569, 30 caucused for Bernie Sanders and 29 for Hillary Clinton. The precinct will allot six delegates to Sanders and six to Clinton.

Caucusing for the first time, Mamie Adams, 58, said she supported Clinton because she wanted the United States to have its first woman president.

Her daughters, Josie Adams, 25, and Cassiopia Adams, 18, both students at the Art Institute of Las Vegas, said they voted for Sanders because they support the federal government lowering student debt.

“When you have that debt, you just can’t afford other things, like a car or a home,” Cassiopia Adams said.

Lizette Arellano, 26, also voted for Sanders in hopes of having her UNLV student loans refinanced.

Arellano, a graduate student majoring in Spanish, said high interest rates prevent most college graduates with entry-level jobs from being able to pay off their debt in a reasonable amount of time.

“It’s just crazy how many students get stuck in that,” Arellano said. “It’s stressful.”

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Former President Bill Clinton and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton wave after Hillary Clinton's victory speech at Caesars Palace following the Nevada caucuses Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016.

1:52 p.m.

As caucusgoers left Del Webb Middle School, Sanders supporter Sam Dreitzer said: “I feel like I just witnessed a tornado.”

Dreitzer was referring to the swirl of activity, not the results for Sanders. But unofficially, it appeared Sanders got buffeted badly at Del Webb.

Results posted from five precincts showed Clinton receiving more delegates than Sanders in four.

Dreitzer, echoing a concern mentioned by several caucusgoers at Del Webb, said check-in problems caused the day to get off to a slow start. The caucus didn’t end until well after 1 p.m.

“Next time, I’d definitely have more computers,” Dreitzer said. “I walked around and let more than 100 people check in using my phone.”

1:30 p.m.

In Nevada, tie precincts are broken by a card draw.

That happened today in a precinct in Pahrump, where Clinton won one delegate after her precinct captain won a card draw. According to the Wall Street Journal, the 30 voters at Precinct 10 at Morse Elementary School split evenly.

After the precinct’s chairwoman removed the jokers and shuffled the deck three times, Clinton’s camp pulled an ace, while Sanders’ team had a six of hearts.

1:22 p.m.

Caucusing went quickly at Del Webb Middle School after a lengthy check-in process. But it didn’t go smoothly. Participants in Precinct 1514, one of several caucusing at Del Webb, complained that their precinct chairman failed to follow caucus rules by not allowing supporters to speak in favor of candidates and try to persuade others to join their camp.

“We just went right to the delegate count,” said Brian Berman, a supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. “He (precinct chair) is treating this like a primary, not a caucus.”

The chair, Paul Bania, said a vote was taken on whether to allow what’s called “the reading of letters” in caucus rules. Bania said the definition is literal — it means caucusgoers can read statements.

But the precinct caucusgoers voted not to allow the readings, he said.

Berman and others were unswayed, saying they would follow up with a complaint to party officials.

“I’m right and he’s wrong,” Berman said.

Sanders won the precinct, but Berman said the results didn’t ease his mind.

“It’s not about the votes, it’s about the process,” he said. “The world is watching, and we need to show we can do this right.”

1:15 p.m.

Cervantes, the caucus chairman at Precinct 1141 at Coronado High School, called the results in to the Nevada Democratic Party, using the speakerphone on his phone. Everyone listened and the room was quiet. A recorded voice answered: “For information on one of our wonderful apartment homes, press 1.” Cervantes hung up. “Wrong number.”

The second time he got it right and after the numbers were repeated by a female-sounding computer voice at the other end, it offered a cheery “Have a great day!”

“We’re out of here,” someone yelled.

“No, not yet!” Cervantes said. “We’ve got more work to do.”

Delegates were needed to go to the county Democratic convention on April 2. Few hands shot up, but finally enough were found.

A woman piped up: “I really need to leave!”

Cervantes was exacerbated. “No, just one more thing. Does anyone want to offer resolutions to be considered at the county convention?”

“Yeah,” a woman in the back said. “Get rid of the caucuses.”

The room erupted in applause.

1:15 p.m.

Clinton supporters were ecstatic with her win at the precinct at Caesars Palace.

“I want a woman for president,” Caesars kitchen runner Lucia Lopez said as she walked back to work. “She has good ideas about health insurance for people and about education.”

Lopez said she also caucused for Clinton in 2008.

1:05 p.m.

Hillary Clinton handily won the at-large precinct at Caesars Palace. The final count was 190 for Clinton and 81 for Sanders. Caucusgoers will now choose delegates to send to the county convention.

Twenty-eight will be sent to support Clinton and 12 will be sent for Sanders.

12:30 p.m.

Thirty minutes behind schedule, the caucus begins at Coronado High School with the passing of an envelope seeking contributions for the Nevada Democratic Party. As it weaves its way through the room, there don’t appear to be any donations in it.

A large roar erupts from a room across the hall, maybe relief that in their room, too, the caucus was beginning. Precinct 1141’s room was mostly quiet, though, with muttered comments aboout wanting to get the process over with. The room’s pre-assigned temporary chairman, Edgar Cervantes, a volunteer from the Sanders campaign, asked for volunteers to serve as chair. No hands, so he nominated himself. “It’s OK,” he said. “I’ve done this before.”

The classroom is jammed, standing room only, and stuffy.

Cervantes promised to wrap up business by 1:40 p.m. He counted heads and at 65, he lost track, and cursed aloud. He started over, after asking everyone in the room to raise their hands and to drop them when they were counted. Final head count: 74, enough to earn nine delegates on behalf of Precinct 1141.

Everyone in the room was asked to shift to one side or another, based on whether they were voting for Clinton or Sanders.

In this room, no one was undecided. Forty people stood for Clinton, 27 for Sanders. Based on the formula, that gave 5 delegate to Clinton from this classroom — er, precinct 1141 — and 4 for Sanders.

Clinton people grumbled that with such a relatively large raw number differential, the difference in delegates between the two candidates should have been greater. Finally, there was tension in the room, with Clinton people having their noses out of joint. One woman refigured the math: Had even just one more person voted for Clinton instead of Sanders, the delegate count would have been 6 to 3 for Clinton. Close but no cigar.

12:30 p.m.

A Caesars general manager tells workers — most of whom were given paid time off to caucus — not to leave at 1 p.m. and to stay for the whole caucus. He said he would take the “heat from their bosses,” to the cheers of workers.

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Democratic caucusgoers gather in a classroom at Lorna J. Kesterson Elementary School on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016.

12:24 p.m.

More than 200 people stood outside Rancho High School this morning, awaiting the opening of the Nevada Democratic caucus at noon.

Among them was Jason Smutek, 28, of North Las Vegas. He was wearing Hillary Clinton campaign buttons and blue T-shirt reading “estoy contigo,” Spanish for “I’m with you.”

“She’s a proven leader, and that’s what we need right now in our country,” Smutek said. “There’s too much at stake.”

U.S. Rep. Dina Titus of Nevada’s 1st Congressional District arrived early and spent most of the morning speaking with caucusgoers to endorse Clinton.

U.S. Rep. Tony Cardenas of California addressed the crowd just after 11 a.m., also to endorse Clinton. Cardenas was met with chants of “Bernie,” as supporters of the Vermont senator drowned out his words.

“We’re keeping it positive, but we want people to know this is Bernie’s state, not Hillary’s,” said Alma Johnson, 54, a Sanders supporter.

12:21 p.m.

Lee and Joanne Bernick have a rich history of caucusing, dating to their support of George McGovern in 1972 at a caucus in Norman, Okla. The two were graduate students at the University of Oklahoma at the time.

Four years later, when Lee was a faculty member at Iowa State University, they caucused for Jimmy Carter in Iowa. Now, Lee is a public policy professor and former dean of the Greenspun College of Urban Affairs at UNLV.

He and Joanne participated in the 2008 caucus between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and they returned to Del Webb Middle School today. They said turnout this year was substantially higher than in ‘08.

“They moved us right in, and we were done by 1 o’clock,” Joanne said, recalling the ‘08 event. “I don’t think that’s going to happen this time.”

Indeed, check-in was going slowly, with dozens of caucusgoers still waiting in line. Lee Bernick said the large turnout was partly the reason the caucus was off to a slow start.

12:07 p.m.

Staff members are telling workers in English and Spanish that the couple hundred people in line to caucus at Caesars Palace will be processed into the caucus room without registering. They will register everyone inside the caucus room, instead.

Noon

The line at Hyde Middle School, 900 Hinson St., began moving in a timely manner. A woman showed up about 10 seconds after the noon cutoff but was let in after some pleading.

Trinidad Cabrera showed up less than 30 seconds after that woman and was turned away. The same happened with a few more people.

Cabrera, a Clinton supporter, seemed disappointed. “Rules are rules,” he said.

11:50 a.m.

Hundreds of caucusgoers have lined up outside a ballroom at Caesars Palace.

Several dozen were seated inside the caucus room, but a couple hundred more were outside waiting to check in. The caucus was supposed to be called to order at 11:30 a.m., but that won’t happen until everyone is in the room.

The line will be cut off at noon, and once everyone in line at that time is inside the ballroom, the caucus will begin.

11:45 a.m.

Bellagio cook helper Maria Chavez, 51, is caucusing for Sanders after her four children got her excited about him. She said she likes his plan for free college education.

“I have four kids, so that’s very important,” Chavez said. “And my kids follow him, too.”

Chavez seems to be in the minority in what appears to be a mostly pro-Clinton crowd at Caesars, but she said most of her friends support Sanders, too.

11:31 a.m.

Roman Ulman came to Nevada from his home in Mesa, Ariz., to help the Clinton camp at Del Webb Middle School.

“A big part of the reason I’m here is that I have eight granddaughters, and I want them to have the same opportunities as my grandsons,” he said.

Ulman wore a bright green shirt bearing the logo of the American Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees union, of which he is a member.

“In our union, there are people who start as apprentices as they learn their trade,” he said. “One of the great things about Hillary is that because of her experience, she won’t have to do an apprenticeship program when she takes office.”

11:30 a.m.

Hundreds of people were waiting in slow-moving lines to register for the caucus at Coronado High School in Henderson. To campaign volunteers, this was a good sign.

“We’re getting four times as many people than we expected,” one volunteer remarked as a classroom filled to standing-room only. “It’s fantastic.”

In a classroom normally occupied by students learning literature and set aside today for precinct 1141, voters were chatting among themselves.

“You’re all neighbors!” said a volunteer worker from the Clinton campaign. “Block party!”

In the front of the class, above the white board, signs promoted good behavior among students, and they seemed appropriate on this day for the adults, too. “Let’s all get along.” “Use kind words.” “Listen.” “Talk it over.”

11:30 a.m.

Bellagio housekeeper Mary Padilla, 34, supported Clinton in 2008 and is supporting her again today. She says that all of her friends also support Clinton.

Padilla said she had a chance to see Clinton at one of her union rallies this week.

11:25 a.m.

A brief shouting match between Clinton supporters and Sanders supporters broke out in the waiting area for the caucus at Caesars Palace.

Clinton supporters, carrying signs that said “women for Hillary” came in chanting “si se puede,” or “yes we can.” Nurses supporting Sanders then took up a chant of “Bernie, Bernie, Bernie.”

11:15 a.m.

Among a group of Bellagio servers and bartenders preparing to caucus at Caesars Palace, some were planning to support Clinton and others were undecided.

Marco Munoz, 39, is caucusing for Clinton because he believes she will listen to Hispanics more than Sanders.

One of Munoz’s coworkers, Mario Zavala, 29, said he supported Obama in 2008 and is undecided about who he will support today. He’s going to wait to be convinced in the caucus room.

“Bernie Sanders makes a lot of good promises like with college tuition being free, but also I want to know more information about how he’s going to get that done,” Zavala said. “Hillary is good. She’s always been pro-child issues. I have two kids, so that’s important for me.”

10:54 a.m.

LaDeana Gamble, a retired Clark County District Court administrator, said she had never participated in a caucus but was compelled to get more politically active this year because of hateful rhetoric coming from GOP candidates.

“It’s disconcerting — the infighting and the attacking, it seems, of every ethnicity and religion,” she said.

Gamble, who is black, said she was supporting Hillary Clinton because of Clinton’s experience as a New York senator and former secretary of state.

Gamble, now a University of Phoenix criminal justice instructor, was among a crowd of dozens of people who lined up to register at Del Webb Middle School.

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Caucusgoers line up at Grant Sawyer Middle School on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016.

10:45 a.m.

With sign-in starting in 15 minutes for the Nevada Democratic caucus, organizers with both campaigns are here handing out swag to supporters. About 15 members of National Nurses United are here from out of town supporting Bernie Sanders, handling out fliers and signs and stationed at various points on the path from the casino floor to the caucus room.

“We’re just letting people know where to caucus and encourage them to caucus for Bernie,” said Deborah Marcus, a nurse from Northern California.

At least a dozen or so Hillary Clinton organizers have set-up post outside the registration tables and are handing out t-shirts that say “I’m with her” and “Estoy contigo” and signs to caucusgoers.

***

10:35 a.m.

A Filipino couple showed up early — at about 10:15 a.m. — to caucus for Clinton, saying she is the candidate with the most experience. Francisco Fincalero works for security at Caesars Palace.

“I just want the first woman president for America. Just like the Philippines,” his wife, Linda Fincalero, said.

Would their Filipino friends be caucusing for Hillary too?

“I hope so,” she said.

Nevada Democrats head to caucus sites to pick between Clinton, Sanders in close race

Countless rallies, days of canvassing and hours of phone banking have all come down to today.

At 11 a.m., Nevada Democrats will show up at their caucus sites — places of worship, schools, sites on the Las Vegas Strip — to choose who they think the next president of the United States should be, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Over the last week, candidates have been up and down the state, in Reno, in Elko and around the Las Vegas Valley, meeting with their supporters as well as undecided voters. They’ve railed against racial inequality, empathized with those impacted by the recent decisions on solar by the state’s utility regulator and confronted questions over their records on immigration.

Clinton was long projected to be the victor in the state, but a recent surge by Sanders leaves victory uncertain for either candidate. Her campaign started six months before his in Nevada, but he’s since ramped up a significant campaign here with 12 field offices and 100 staff members.

Doors open at precinct sites at 11 a.m., and caucuses are supposed to be called to order at 11:30 a.m. Voters will have to be in line by noon to participate. Results are expected to start rolling in as each precinct finishes its caucus.

Clinton and Sanders are each scheduled to appear at rallies Saturday afternoon. Clinton will attend hers with former President Bill Clinton at Caesars Palace. Sanders will host a watch party as results come in at Henderson Pavilion.

We have reporters throughout town following the action. Check back all day for details.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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