Hillary Clinton won Nevada’s Democratic caucuses on Saturday, NBC News projected, scoring a much-needed boost in the nomination race and depriving rival Bernie Sanders of a victory in a racially diverse state.
The loss is a blow for Sanders, who hoped to use the state’s contest to prove himself as a viable candidate in a state with an electorate made up of more minority voters and fewer self-described liberals than the race’s earlier contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.
In a victory speech at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, Clinton alluded to skeptics who thought she would falter in the Silver State, praising her supporters for their fidelity to her campaign.
"Some may have doubted us, but we never doubted each other," she said. "And this one's for you."
And she took veiled swipes at Sanders, saying that Americans "are right to be angry but we are also hungry for real solutions."
"The truth is, we aren't a single issue country," she said to cheers, echoing one of her key attack lines from the campaign trail. "We need more than a plan for the big banks. The middle class needs a raise and we need more jobs."
Days in advance of the notoriously unpredictable contest Saturday afternoon, the former secretary of state’s team had tried to downplay the significance of the Nevada results amid concerns that Sanders would pull off a win.
But Clinton ultimately gathered a coalition of minority voters, self-identified Democrats and union workers to fuel her victory. She was also boosted by a strong performance in Clark County — home to the city of Las Vegas and the state's most populous county by far.
In his concession speech, Sanders congratulated Clinton but noted what he described as an uphill battle against the Democratic "establishment."
"Taking on the establishment — whether it is the financial establishment, whether it is the political establishment, whether it is the media establishment — is not easy," he said.
Unlike in the race’s earlier primary elections, campaigns and the press were flying relatively blind going into the day’s caucuses, with little reliable polling available for the state’s quirky weekend mid-day caucuses.
The race now turns to South Carolina’s Democratic primary next Saturday, where Clinton has a strong advantage due to her favorability with African-American voters.
Sanders only passingly mentioned that upcoming contest in his concession address, ending his speech by saying: "And now, it's on to Super Tuesday" — the series of contests that come after the South Carolina primary.