Hillary Clinton prevails over Bernie Sanders in Nevada caucuses

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Hillary Clinton Projected Nevada Winner


Fending off an unexpectedly strong challenge from Bernie Sanders, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton notched a narrow but momentum-building victory in the Nevada caucuses on Saturday, averting a second consecutive loss to the progressive insurgent and boosting her campaign's hopes that the tide will turn in her favor as Democrats in demographically diverse states have their say.

The Associated Press projected the race for Clinton on Saturday evening, following hours of election returns that showed an extremely tight race between the two candidates.

Clinton rode to victory on her support among older voters and Democrats who want to continue President Barack Obama's policies.

Click through images from the Nevada Democratic Caucus:

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Hillary Clinton prevails over Bernie Sanders in Nevada caucuses
LAS VEGAS, NV - FEBRUARY 20: Attendees watch caucus returns during a caucus day event for democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Caesers Palace on February 20, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Hillary Clinton defeated Democratic rival U.S.Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in the Nevada Democratic caucuses. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - FEBRUARY 20: Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton embraces her husband former U.S. president Bill Clinton during a caucus day event at Caesers Palace on February 20, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Hillary Clinton defeated Democratic rival U.S.Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in the Nevada Democratic caucuses. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
HENDERSON, NV - FEBRUARY 20: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) gives a concession speech at the Henderson Pavilion on February 20, 2016 in Henderson, Nevada. Sanders lost to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in the Nevada caucus. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks to students at Del Sol High School, Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., center, waves to hotel workers at MGM Grand hotel and casino Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
People line up to participate in the Democratic caucus at the University of Nevada Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016, in Reno, Nev. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Precinct captain Hayley Hageman instructs people through a bullhorn at a Democratic caucus site at the University of Nevada Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016, in Reno, Nev. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., center, pauses for photos with hotel workers at MGM Grand hotel and casino Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., left, is hugged by a hotel worker at Caesars Palace Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton visits with Harrah's Las Vegas employees on the day of the Nevada Democratic caucus, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
A supporter listens to Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at a rally Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, in Reno, Nev. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Actress Susan Sarandon walks onto the stage to introduce Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at a rally Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, in Reno, Nev. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and wife, Jane, wave as they arrive at a rally Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, in Henderson, Nev. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
A woman listens to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speak during a rally Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., center, acknowledges the cheering crowd after a rally Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, in Henderson, Nev. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
A man holds up signs while listening to Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at a rally, Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, in Henderson, Nev. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., center, sings with musicians and actors after a rally Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, in Henderson, Nev. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Sara Watts, center, and other supporters cheer for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., while waiting for the arrival of Sen. Sanders at a rally Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, in Henderson, Nev. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Students listen to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at Del Sol High School, Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton meets with students at Del Sol High School, Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a rally Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, in Reno, Nev. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
LAS VEGAS, NV - FEBRUARY 20: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and his wife, Jane O'Meara Sanders, (R) greet voters as they visit the Western High School caucus site on February 20, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Sanders and Hillary Clinton wait for the voters to weigh in as they head to the polls in the Democratic caucus. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - FEBRUARY 20: Voters chant as they wait in line to get into a Democratic caucus at Caesars Palace on February 20, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Nevada voters are caucusing to decide between Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
A Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, precinct captain arranges campaign buttons on a table ahead of the Nevada Democratic presidential caucus at Desert Oasis High School in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016. Today voters weigh in on the Democratic battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders competing in the Nevada caucuses with Clinton believed to have the advantage in the western state because of its heavily Hispanic electorate, but some recent polls show the race tied. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Caucusgoers line up to check-in before casting their vote for a Democratic presidential candidate ahead of the Nevada caucus at Desert Oasis High School in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016. Today voters weigh in on the Democratic battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders competing in the Nevada caucuses with Clinton believed to have the advantage in the western state because of its heavily Hispanic electorate, but some recent polls show the race tied. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
LAS VEGAS, NV - FEBRUARY 20: Voters chant as they wait in line to get into a Democratic caucus at Caesars Palace on February 20, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Nevada voters are caucusing to decide between Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT). (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Eligible caucus voters arrive at Del Sol Academy of the Performing Arts in Las Vegas to participate in First in the West presidential caucus on February 20, 2016. / AFP / John GURZINSKI (Photo credit should read JOHN GURZINSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
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According to entrance polling, she defeated Sanders 64% to 32% among caucusgoers over 45, who accounted for nearly two-thirds of the turnout.

Meanwhile, she bested the senator 72% to 25% among those who want the next president to carry on Obama's legacy; such caucusgoers accounted for 49% of the turnout, while 41% wanted a more liberal president. Cognizant that Obama remains overwhelmingly popular with Democratic voters, Clinton has hammered Sanders for his insufficient loyalty to Obama.





Resetting the narrative: Clinton's victory comes less than two weeks after Sanders trounced her by 22 percentage points in New Hampshire, winning across demographic groups and raising renewed doubts about the aura of inevitability that long surrounded Clinton's candidacy.

The test for Sanders, though, was whether he could parlay his near-upset in the Iowa caucuses and his Granite State rout into support in more multiethnic states. Even as Sanders gained on Clinton in the polls, the former secretary of state retained an overwhelming advantage among African-Americans and Hispanics.

Should Sanders fail to make inroads with nonwhite voters, his hopes of defeating Clinton for the Democratic nomination will be dashed.

Nevada — once seen as the outer layer of Clinton's post-New Hampshire "firewall," with a population that's only 51.5% non-Hispanic white — offered Sanders an early opportunity to demonstrate that he could broaden his appeal. Entrance polling gave Sanders a 54% to 43% lead among Nevada's Latinos, which seemed to portend ill for Clinton, but her victory casts doubt on the reliability of those figures.

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Hard hit by the housing crash and the Great Recession, the Silver State offered fertile ground for Sanders' message of combatting economic inequality and taking on big banks.

Sensing opportunity, his campaign opened 11 field offices in the state — four more than Clinton's campaign boasted — although Sanders didn't start hiring staff there until October, four months after Clinton's team was on the ground. Clinton also had extensive experience in the state dating to her 2008 presidential bid, when she defeated then-Sen. Barack Obama in the popular vote but fell short in the delegate count.

Sanders was undaunted. Until recently, he was outspending Clinton on Nevada's airwaves, although she outpaced him in the days leading up to the caucuses.

Sanders' organizing efforts in Nevada — and his increased visibility after his robust performance in the first two nominating contests — barreled him to contention in the state. While pre-caucus polling was sparse, the most recent surveys showed an effectively tied race.

The road ahead: In coming up short, Sanders' campaign has hardly sustained a mortal blow. For starters, Nevada accounts for only 35 of the 4,051 pledged delegates to the Democratic convention. And this is a state, after all, where Sanders trailed by double digits just a few months ago. That he was even in contention underscores the improbable strength of the democratic socialist's campaign.

Still, Sanders' loss raises anew the question of whether he can muster sufficient support among minority voters. Moreover, Clinton's victory suggests that Sanders will have difficulty parachuting into states where she has spent decades cultivating relationships with voters and party elites.

Nevada may now mark the beginning of a winning streak for Clinton: She's dominating the polls in South Carolina, where Democrats vote on Feb. 27. And according to Public Policy Polling, she leads Sanders in 10 of 12 states that vote in early March, thanks in large measure to her strength with minorities.

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