Sanders wins Nevada boosting Democratic frontrunner status

LOS ANGELES: Left-wing Senator Bernie Sanders was widely projected to win the Nevada caucus on Sunday, giving a major boost to the candidate and solidifying his position as frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination.
With a dominant showing — garnering 47 per cent of the vote with half the precincts counted — US broadcasters including CNN projected him to be the winner, although final results have not been determined.
The strong showing in the racially diverse Nevada caucus — the third state in the nomination process — is a major victory for Sanders who has run on a campaign of ardent left-wing proposals, including eliminating private health care and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
“In Nevada we have just put together a multi generational, multiracial coalition, which is not only going to win in Nevada, it’s going to sweep this county,” the 78-year-old Sanders said to a raucous crowd of supporters in Texas.
Sanders is trailed by former vice president Joe Biden and former mayor and Pete Buttigieg vying for second and third place.
Meanwhile, despite a strong showing at the most recent Democratic debate, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is fighting for a distant fourth along with billionaire Tom Steyer.
Sanders’ leading status has worried moderate Democrats who believe the self-described democratic socialist is too left-wing to defeat US President Donald Trump in national elections.
While the senator’s opponents have largely refrained from focusing their attacks on him, it appears that will change as his lead is cemented.
“Senator Sanders believes in an inflexible ideological revolution that leaves out most Democrats, not to mention most Americans,” said Buttigieg, who has positioned himself as a moderate alternative.
Biden — who is looking to claw back momentum after lacklustre performances in New Hampshire and Iowa — appears to be competing fora second or third-place finish with Buttigieg in Nevada.
Meanwhile, Trump boasted on Twitter that “Crazy Bernie is doing well’’.
“Congratulations Bernie, & don’t let them take it away from you!” Trump said, continuing his apparent campaign to divide Sanders supporters from the Democratic party.
Recent revelations that the US intelligence community believes Russia is attempting to boost Sanders’ campaign along with Trump’s have cast a shadow over the Nevada caucus.
Nevada is the most diverse state the candidates have faced so far, with a substantial Latino and African-American population.
While not providing a large amount of delegates, the state is important for candidates looking to build momentum going into the South Carolina primary next week and the March 3 primaries, where a third of the delegates are up for grabs in multiple contests.
Biden has staked much his campaign on South Carolina, where he enjoys strong support among the state’s large African-American constituency.
“You know the press is ready to declare people dead quickly but we are alive and we’re coming back and we’re gonna win,” Biden told supporters as the Nevada results trickled in.
A major player in the Nevada caucus, where voting took place on Saturday, is the Las Vegas-based culinary union that represents some 60,000 mostly Latino workers in the hospitality industry.
While not endorsing any candidate, the union leadership has sparred with Sanders over his healthcare proposal, which would eliminate the union’s hard-fought healthcare plan in favour of a government-run system. — dpa