Today’s Nevada caucuses will be the first chance for the candidates vying for the Democratic presidential nomination to prove themselves in a state with a racially diverse electorate.
After contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, Nevada is also the first state with a significant union population and a metropolitan area of more than 750,000 people.
About today’s caucuses
• Most voters participating in today’s Democratic presidential caucuses must show up at the precinct caucus location that matches the precinct in which they are registered to vote. To find your caucus location, go online to caucus.nvdems.com and enter your home address.
• Shift workers on or near the Las Vegas Strip will also have the option of attending the Strip caucus nearest to their place of employment. Strip caucus sites are: Bellagio, Harrah’s, Mandalay Bay, Paris Las Vegas, Mandalay Bay, Park MGM, Rio and Wynn Las Vegas.
• Voters may register or change party affiliation on Caucus Day or at their in-person early vote location.
• Check-in at all caucus locations begins at 10 a.m.; precinct caucuses will be called to order at noon.
“This is an electorate that’s going to be voting in a Democratic caucus that is much more diverse than the previous two states,” said Ken Miller, an assistant professor of political science at UNLV. “It’s also more urban. This is the first time that a big city has weighed in (on the 2020 presidential nominating process).”
According to census data, Nevada’s population is 10% black, 29% Hispanic and almost 9% Asian. Only 48.7% of the state’s population is white.
Contrast that with Iowa, where 85.3% of the population is white, and New Hampshire, where 90% of the population is white.
Some candidates, like Sen. Bernie Sanders. I-Vt., and former Vice President Joe Biden, are expecting support from voters of color to give them a boost in Nevada.
Others, like former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar will have their ability to attract minority support put to the test.
Here’s what’s at stake for the candidates as they head into the Nevada caucuses.
Biden, considered the national frontrunner for most of 2019, has fallen behind Sanders in recent national polling after weaker showings in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Polling generally has Biden coming in either second or third in Nevada. A strong showing in the Silver State would bolster his standing heading into the Feb. 29 primary in South Carolina, where he is counting on strong support from black voters to catapult his campaign.
Miller said it’s hard to imagine Biden could do poorly in Nevada and still do well in South Carolina.
“He seems to have established South Carolina as sort of his firewall, but getting a good performance Saturday in Nevada prior to South Carolina is going to help his narrative a lot,” Miller said.
Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, performed well in the first two nominating contests, coming in first in Iowa and second in New Hampshire.
Nevada, however, may prove a struggle, with polls showing him doing poorly among minority voters. He’s made pitches to the black and Hispanic communities, but it remains to be seen whether it will be enough to boost his support.
He’s beefed up his campaign in the state in the past few months, with 12 offices and over 100 staff members on the ground. Nevada will be a crucial test of his campaign’s ability to appeal to minority voters going into the South Carolina primaries and Super Tuesday, March 3.
Klobuchar, the senior senator from Minnesota, surged coming out of New Hampshire, where she finished third.
But she has not had a strong ground game in the Silver State. She staffed up here in November and has used a recent influx of cash to funnel staff into Nevada and buy ads.
If Klobuchar can repeat her solid showing in New Hampshire in a more diverse state like Nevada, it could lend “authenticity” to her candidacy, Miller said.
Polls generally show Klobuchar finishing poorly in Nevada, but Miller said that her recent showing in New Hampshire was not necessarily factored into those numbers.
“Her surge has been so recent there’s a chance it just isn’t reflected in the public opinion data we’ve got,” he said.
Polling shows Sanders is the Nevada frontrunner. He lost Nevada to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016 by a little over 5 percentage points.
His polling average in Nevada is around 30%, far ahead of Biden’s 16%.
According to Morning Consult polling, Sanders polls in the top three candidates nationwide with every demographic group except baby boomers.
While the state’s politically powerful Culinary Union is not endorsing any candidate, it is not a fan of Sanders’ proposal for a “Medicare for All” government-run health care program.
The union distributed leaflets earlier this month to its members criticizing the plan, which would replace the private insurance the union has negotiated for its members.
Sanders’ pull with young voters, black voters and Hispanic voters, as well as the devotion of his base, has kept him polling high headed into the caucuses.
Businessman and philanthropist Tom Steyer needs a strong showing in Nevada and thinks he can get one. He’s released polling done on behalf of his campaign that has him in second or third place.
Steyer has made Nevada one of his most frequent stops on the campaign trail. He has yet to pick up any delegates and did not qualify for Wednesday’s debate in Las Vegas.
He needs not only a strong showing in Nevada but to finish with at least 15% of the vote to pick up a delegate.
Warren has had one of the largest ground operations in the state, but she’s fallen behind in the polls and finished third in Iowa and fourth in New Hampshire.
Polling averages show her finishing third in Nevada, but she could pick up some delegates if she breaks the 15% allocation threshold.
Like Biden, she needs a breakout performance soon. A win in Nevada could restart the momentum she had earlier in the campaign.