5 things to watch in the Nevada caucuses: Can anyone stop Bernie Sanders?

LAS VEGAS — Nevada kicks off a new phase of the Democratic presidential race Saturday as the first 2020 contest with an electorate that reflects the diversity of the party.

It could be a knockout round for candidates who fail to attract a broad coalition of voters. Whether or not it causes some of them to exit, Nevada will signify to voters in critical upcoming contests who is viable and who isn’t.

Polls say Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. is the front-runner heading into the caucuses, with former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., businessman and philanthropist Tom Steyer and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., all in the hunt. Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who is surging in national surveys and had a rocky debate this week, is skipping the first four states and won't be on the ballot here.

Click here for five things to watch for as Nevada Democrats vote.

Sanders focuses on unity after Nevada win

Sanders focused on unity today during a rally in Houston one day after winning the Nevada Caucus by what appears to be a considerable margin.

"Understand that we are in this together," Sanders said. "There is no family in America, no family, you think you're alone— you're not. There's no family in America that does not have its share of problems, trust me, alright? You think you're the only family, you're not. Every family has a problem and what America must be is an understanding that my family has got to care about your family. Your family has got to care about my family. And that as human beings we share a common humanity that we are in this together."

Despite 2020 Democratic candidates stepping up their attacks on Sanders, he, for the most part, did not take the bait. Sanders instead went off on Trump, and attacked Bloomberg for "buying the election."

Buttigieg campaign claims 'irregularities' in Nevada caucus results

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Pete Buttigieg's campaign is questioning the results of Nevada’s Democratic caucus, alleging anomalies in data and errors in reporting.

"Given how close the race is between second and third place, we ask that you take these steps before releasing any final data," the campaign wrote late Saturday in a letter to the Nevada State Democratic Party.

Molly Forgey, a party spokeswoman, said that the officials were "continuing to verify and to report results," adding, "As laid out in our recount guidance, there is a formal method for requesting a challenge of results."

With over half of Saturday's results reported by the party as of Sunday afternoon, Buttigieg advisers maintain that the former mayor will finish in second, or closer to second than the results currently indicate, after the full and accurate accounting of results.

"Currently our data shows that this is a razor-thin margin for second place in Nevada, and due to irregularities and a number of unresolved questions we have raised with the Nevada Democratic Party, it’s unclear what the final results will be," Deputy Campaign Manager Hari Sevugan said in a statement.

Read more here.

'Her strategy failed her': Warren finally took on Sanders, but it may be too late

LAS VEGAS — Elizabeth Warren's longstanding truce with Bernie Sanders came apart in the days preceding the Nevada caucuses. But the push came too late, with her campaign now on life support after disappointing finishes in the three early states.

Sanders won a dominant victory in Nevada, with the Massachusetts senator coming in fourth after she spent the preceding week throwing caution to the wind, for the first time making an explicit case for why the Vermont senator should not be the Democratic presidential nominee.

She took him to task for a lack of transparency on his health records, for the ugly behavior of some of his supporters, for refusing to call for abolishing the Senate filibuster, and for his campaign's negativity toward others on Medicare for All. She even criticized him by name after months of contrasts that were too subtle to make an impression on many voters.

Some Democrats wonder why she waited so long.

Read more here.

Warren mocks Bloomberg : 'A big threat, not a tall one'

Warren sharply criticized Bloomberg while addressing supporters in Washington on Saturday night, taking a Trump-like swing at the New York billionaire.

"I want to talk specifically for just a minute at the top, about a threat that is coming our way. And it's a big threat. Not a tall one but a big one: Michael Bloomberg," she said.

Trump frequently pokes fun of Bloomberg's height, which recently released medical records show is 5'7.

Warren also criticized Bloomberg for trying to "buy this election" and for his record on race and gender.

"Billionaire who hides his taxes, has a bad history with women, and defends racist policies," she said. "Let me just put it this way: we're not substituting one arrogant billionaire for another in 2020."

She added, "Michael Bloomberg is the riskiest candidate for the Democrats because he cannot win against Donald Trump."

After Nevada loss, Buttigieg says he's hoping for a diverse coalition in South Carolina

Speaking with reporters on the flight from Nevada to Colorado following his caucus speech, Buttigieg emphasized the need to do well in the upcoming nominating contests. 

"Obviously South Carolina’s an opportunity to demonstrate that our coalition is broader than people thought, as I believe is happening in Nevada," he said. "We’ve got to have a good showing in Super Tuesday, it’s why we’re pushing so hard to make sure we have the resources to win."

Asked about the ads his campaign has started running in South Carolina, hitting Sanders on healthcare, Buttigieg said, "He’s the frontrunner right now, and we need to make sure that we challenge his vision because I think it’s a vision that most Democrats and certainly most Americans don’t share."

Polls show that a majority of Democratic voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada are in favor of Medicare for All, Sanders' signature policy proposal. The Vermont senator won New Hampshire and Nevada and was a close runner-up in Iowa.

Steyer leaves Nevada on an optimistic note

Tom Steyer sounded an optimistic note about his less-than-top-tier finish in Nevada on Saturday night, telling supporters in remarks that lasted only a few minutes that he was "really, really proud" of how he was doing as results trickled in and "really thrilled" about what his campaign had accomplished.

The billionaire activist said he believed “more strongly than ever in what we are fighting for” and that he can see “why we are the answer to the Democratic question of who can beat Trump.”

Although results were still coming in, Steyer said he thought he was "going to have a good night" and "this is the start of us moving up.” He added, “I think what we are going to see is, as we get into diverse America, we do better and better and better” and predicted a strong performance next Saturday in South Carolina.

“Tonight is the start, next Saturday is the next step, and then Super Tuesday is when we prove it,” Steyer said before telling the crowd that he was catching an overnight flight to South Carolina and to “have fun tonight."

"So let's get ready for that," he said about the upcoming contest. "Let's take credit for what happened, and then let's build on it and keep going."

Warren congratulates Sanders, reassures supporters ‘we have a lot of states to go’

Elizabeth Warren congratulated Bernie Sanders on his Nevada victory during a campaign rally in Seattle on Saturday evening. 

"Thank you Nevada for keeping me in the fight. The results have come in Bernie won," Warren said. "Congratulations, Bernie." 

Despite her cordial opening, Warren did not shy away from criticizing the night's big winner.

"Bernie says we're going to keep the filibuster. I say Mitch McConnell is not going to get a veto over what we do," Warren said. "I am not in this fight to talk about change. I am in this fight to make change."

Warren, who has underperformed in early nominating contests, reassured her supporters that the race was not yet a done deal. 

“Since Wednesday night, our support has been growing everywhere,” she said, highlighting the $9 million her campaign has raised since her strong Las Vegas debate performance earlier this week. 

“We have a lot of states to go, and right now I can feel the momentum,” Warren said.

ANALYSIS: It's not just bros —Sanders' electorate reflects a cross-section of the party

LAS VEGAS — Put "Bernie Bros" on the back-burner.

It's the army of sobrinos and sobrinas — the Spanish words for nephews and nieces — who should strike fear in the hearts of Bernie Sanders' rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination and party elites after he ran up the score among Latino voters in the Nevada caucuses Saturday. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and other Latinx backers of Sanders refer to him fondly as their "tío," or uncle.

Sanders was the choice of 54 percent of Hispanic caucus-goers Saturday on his way to steamrolling to the most convincing victory of the primary season, according to an NBC entrance poll. His closest competitor, former Vice President Joe Biden, racked up 14 percent, with no other candidate cracking double digits.

Those results signaled that the energy Sanders has poured into building a more diverse coalition than his failed 2016 campaign is paying off at just the right time. He can now stake the first claim — less than two weeks before the "Super Tuesday" contests in 14 states — to having won a state where white, Hispanic and black voters are all represented in substantial numbers.

Read the full analysis here.

Hotline jams responsible for some reporting delays

Multiple Nevada caucus precinct chairs told NBC News that they had to wait anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours to phone in their site results due to jammed hotlines Saturday.

“It just beeped the whole time,” said Ashlyne Rose, a 20-year-old nursing student and precinct chair.

Two chairs interviewed by NBC News said that the Nevada Democratic Party had texted them Saturday afternoon to provide the phone number they were supposed to use to report results. But when the time came, several chairs tried repeatedly to get through and were initially unable to do so.

Around 5 p.m. ET, or 2 p.m. local time, the party sent a second text message with three additional phone numbers to call. “Thanks so much for your hard work. If you haven’t reported yet, you can call any of the following numbers to do so,” the message read. “If you don’t reach us right away, we’ll give you a call back to take your results.”

Calling those numbers resulted in being placed on hold for up to 20 minutes for some chairs, but the chairs said they were eventually able to report their results.

During the Iowa caucuses on two weeks ago, results were delayed for hours as an app coding issue and overwhelmed phone lines bogged down reporting. There was no evidence of any issue on a similar magnitude in Nevada and caucus managers said they weren’t overly concerned.

"I wasn’t really worried, I just thought I would call in a bit after calls went through," Rose said.

Gary Reese, a 65-year-old government worker, arrived a precinct in Elko County as an observer and was quickly pressed into service as a precinct chair due to a shortage of volunteers.

"First time I called I got a disconnected tone, like the line is not in service," Reese said.

Eventually he was told to go home and keep trying from there. He never received the secondary list of phone numbers because he was a day-of volunteer and neither the site lead nor the Democratic Party had his information. Around 7:15 p.m. ET, or 4:15 p.m. local time, he was able to submit his results via the original phone number.

Not everyone had to wait, however. Another precinct chair told NBC News they were able to report in results without issue on the original phone number. 

Molly Forgey, the Nevada Democratic Party spokesperson, told NBC News in an email that the party had prepared "all along for a high influx of results as caucuses wrap up, and we’re working diligently to accommodate and continue processing the high volume of incoming results from precinct chairs."

Bloomberg campaign: Nominating Sanders would be 'a fatal error' for Democrats

Mike Bloomberg's campaign manager, Kevin Sheekey, blasted Bernie Sanders following the results of the Nevada caucuses, saying that nominating the Vermont senator would be a "fatal error" for Democrats.

"The Nevada results reinforce the reality that this fragmented field is putting Bernie Sanders on pace to amass an insurmountable delegate lead," Sheekey said. "This is a candidate who just declared war on the so-called 'Democratic establishment.'"

"We are going to need Independents AND Republicans to defeat Trump — attacking your own party is no way to get started," Sheekey said. "As Mike says, if we choose a candidate who appeals to a small base — like Senator Sanders — it will be a fatal error."