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Clinton claims Nevada caucuses with help from women, Latinos

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  • Clinton claims victory with strong Latino support
  • Obama camp claims victory in delegate count
  • Next stop for Democrats is South Carolina
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LAS VEGAS, Nevada (CNN) -- With solid backing from Latino voters and women overall, Sen. Hillary Clinton claimed her second win of the Democratic presidential race in Saturday's Nevada caucuses.

Nearly complete results from Nevada showed Clinton edging out her leading rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, 51 percent to 45 percent among Democrats who split along ethnic, racial and generational lines, according to entrance polls.

But women made up nearly 60 percent of those taking part in Saturday's contest, and the New York senator and former first lady led Obama 52 percent to 35 percent among those voters.

She won big in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas -- home to about 1.7 million of the state's population of 2.6 million. Clinton led Obama by about 11 percentage points in the county with 90 percent of its precincts reporting.

"I guess this is how the West was won," Clinton told supporters in Las Vegas after the caucuses. "This was an extraordinary success for Nevada and for the Democratic Party." Video Watch Clinton thank her supporters »

Obama's camp, however, also claimed a win out of Nevada on Saturday: Due to the way delegates are allocated by county, Obama is estimated to win 13 of the 25 delegates at stake, Clinton 12. Video Watch more on on the split decision »

"We're proud of the campaign we ran in Nevada," Obama said in a written statement after the caucuses. "We came from over 25 points behind to win more national convention delegates than Hillary Clinton because we performed well all across the state, including rural areas where Democrats have traditionally struggled."

Clinton, who won last week's New Hampshire primary, was winning the Latino vote nearly 3 to 1 in Nevada, according to entrance polls. Latinos make up about a quarter of the state's population and 14 percent of caucus participants, those polls found.

Saturday's contest marked the first time a Western state has played an early role in the presidential race, and Democrats are counting on Latino voters to help the party make inroads into the region in 2008.

Both Clinton and Obama campaigned heavily in Nevada, where polls showed the two senators neck-and-neck at the start of the week.

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The Democrats face their toughest questions yet when they debate before the Congressional Black Caucus
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Meanwhile, the pro-Obama Culinary Workers Union fought to keep a caucus plan that allowed the nearly 200,000 casino and hotel employees on the Las Vegas strip to take part at caucus sites in their workplaces -- a plan thought to give Obama an edge after the union endorsed him last week.

Meanwhile, after a dust-up between the Clinton and Obama campaigns over civil rights history, Obama led overwhelmingly among the 16 percent of African-Americans who came out to caucus. Nearly 80 percent of black caucus-goers supported Obama, who won the January 3 Iowa caucuses. Black voters are expected to make up about half of the electorate in South Carolina, the scene of the party's next primary.

"Right now, things are very uneasy in the black community," said Donna Brazile, a CNN analyst who managed former Vice President Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign. She said her own relatives in South Carolina are split between Obama and Clinton.

"This is a key test, not just for the black vote, but also a key test for the Democrats in terms of heading South," she said.

South Carolina is also the native state of the third major Democrat in the race, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who finished in single digits in Nevada. Edwards finished second in Iowa and third in New Hampshire, but has vowed to stay in the race until the party's August convention in Denver. Video Watch Edwards say he is ready to fight for America »

Obama also led strongly among voters under 30, while Clinton took the over-45 category. Video Watch how Obama is targeting young voters in Clinton's home state of New York »

And in the last days, both Clinton and Edwards blasted Obama over comments he made to the editorial board of a Reno newspaper, in which he praised former president and Republican icon Ronald Reagan's "clarity" and "optimism" and said the GOP had been "the party of ideas" for the last 10 to 15 years. Video Watch Roland Martin say Obama must explain Reagan praise »


"There's no nostalgia in the Democratic Party for Ronald Reagan," Brazile said. "Hillary Clinton may have benefited from not just the love that people have for Bill Clinton, but also criticizing Obama in the last 24 hours about his support for Ronald Reagan."

Nevada Democrats said they had a record turnout for Saturday's caucuses, with more than 115,000 people taking part. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider contributed to this report.

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