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Caucus Recap: Sanders Comes Out On Top In Nevada

Man speaks to crowd of enthusiastic young people
Lucia Starbuck
KUNR Public Radio
Bernie Sanders talks to the crowd at his Get Out the Early Vote Rally at the University of Nevada, Reno on Tuesday, Feb. 18.

Bernie Sanders was the 'belle of the ball' Saturday night, or rather, the 'belle of Nevada.' He easily took first place in the state's caucuses.

KUNR's Bree Zender spoke to Michelle Billman about what all went down.

BILLMAN: So, Bree: Bernie Sanders.

ZENDER: Yeah, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders really is the story. Many analysts are saying that his win in Nevada solidifies him as the frontrunner in this race. I spent the afternoon [on caucus day] at Eagle Valley Middle School [in Carson City.] There were ten precincts there, and I think the results there are pretty comparable with what we’re seeing in Nevada. It was a solid mix of urban and rural parts of the Carson City area. I would say the eastern and southwestern parts of Carson City. And despite all of those differences, there was one constant between all of those precincts: at least one delegate for Bernie Sanders. He was viable in every precinct through that first round.

BILLMAN: Let’s turn now to the state’s Democratic Party. They faced some obstacles ahead of these caucuses. How did things turn out?

ZENDER: You know, all things considered, things ran fairly smoothly. Especially if you compare [it] to what happened at the caucuses in Iowa. Reporting phone lines were a bit jammed for a while, but reportedly after the party opened up a second hotline, things seemed to smooth out a little bit.

We had several reporters out in the field on caucus day, and we did see a few issues as reporters. At one site, there was an English-to-Spanish translation issue. At another, there were some precinct districting issues at the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe’s reservation. I saw one precinct have issues with counting the supporters along with early votes, which caused issues in the [first] and second rounds.

Eventually, they seemed to work things out, but Nevada Democrats had to come up with a brand new system, because a few weeks ago they dropped the caucusing app that they were planning to use. Those particular apps were made by the same company that made Iowa’s app, which along with a lot of other issues, caused part of the chaos in Iowa that led to delayed results.

BILLMAN: With Sanders clearly at the top in Nevada, where did the other candidates land?

ZENDER: Moderates and other candidates who lie somewhere in between, like Senator Elizabeth Warren, were pretty fractured. Nobody could decide on one candidate who was an alternative to Bernie Sanders. A lot of people are looking for that at this moment.

In Carson City, the moderate vote was fractured as well. For example, in addition to their Sanders delegates, one precinct had three delegates for [Pete] Buttigieg, and at another precinct, there were two delegates that went to [Amy] Klobuchar, and two for [Tom] Steyer. So, there wasn’t any one candidate that anyone could decide on. And, you know, the one constant was Bernie Sanders, again. And had all the people who decided not to vote for Sanders united under one candidate, they would have likely overpassed Sanders in delegate counts.

BILLMAN: Well, and we’ve got Super Tuesday coming up, where we’ll see results from a slew of states. In these upcoming states, do you think moderates may unite a bit more?

ZENDER: Well, we haven’t seen it so far when it comes to voters all deciding on one candidate. No one can really pick one because everyone’s got different options on who the best person might be, but it might be a little easier if more candidates just simply drop out of the race. You’ll have fewer people to choose from.

Bree Zender is a former host and reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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