The 2020 Nevada caucuses

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6:49 p.m. ET, February 22, 2020

Early popular vote numbers show Sanders gaining momentum

Sen. Bernie Sanders has taken the lead among Democrats with just 3% of Nevada precincts reporting.

Sanders leads with 1,615 votes in the final round with former Vice President Joe Biden in second with 850.

"In that first round of voting with these early precincts, 1,410 votes. In the final round, after he was viable and clearly was able to bring over some people who were with nonviable groups, he had 1,615 votes," CNN's David Chalian said this afternoon about Sanders. "He gained 205 votes in that process. Again, this speaks to why it's important to organize. Have a good organization. Teach those caucus volunteers how to operate in that room."
5:19 p.m. ET, February 22, 2020

Final preference votes vs. county delegates: What's the difference?

Patrick Semansky/AP
Patrick Semansky/AP

The Nevada Democratic Party is reporting three different numbers as it releases its caucus results tonight. Here's what those numbers mean:

  • First preference: This is the vote count after the first round in caucusing. Voters in the room grouped with other participants supporting their first choice for president. If their first choice wasn't viable — meaning the candidate reached a certain threshold of support, usually around 15% of the vote — voters were given an opportunity to realign with viable candidates or to form a viable group with other voters whose top choice wasn't viable.
  • Final preference: This is the vote count after voters realign. All of these candidates were viable after the first round.
  • County delegates: This is calculated based on the final preference vote counts in the precincts. Think of it like the popular vote vs. the Electoral College in the general election.

CNN will project the winner of the Nevada caucuses based on who wins the most county delegates.

5:20 p.m. ET, February 22, 2020

Buttigieg campaign sees an opportunity to amass delegates in rural counties

Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg visits a caucus site Saturday, February 22, in Las Vegas.
Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg visits a caucus site Saturday, February 22, in Las Vegas. John Locher?AP

As Pete Buttigieg's campaign watches the results come in, it believes it has an opportunity to amass a sizable number of county delegates in rural counties where populations are smaller, according to a Buttigieg aide.

The campaign has 1,300 precinct captains across the state and it believes their presence, particularly in the rural counties, will help during realignment, the aide said. They believe if Buttigieg is viable in a specific precinct, having volunteers on site who know their communities, their neighbors and the realignment process is a real advantage to attract voters from other candidates who weren’t viable. 

Their organizing strategy is focused on maximizing delegates, the aide added. This is a similar strategy the Buttigieg campaign had in Iowa — which it believes aided Buttigieg's narrow victory even though Bernie Sanders won the popular vote.

6:49 p.m. ET, February 22, 2020

Sanders has early lead based on initial results

Bernie Sanders has an early lead in the initial results coming in from the Nevada caucuses.

Sanders is on top with 422 popular votes, followed by Elizabeth Warren second place with 350. Pete Buttigieg got 279 votes, Amy Klobuchar has 231 votes and Joe Biden got 215 votes.

Wolf Blitzer and John King break down the initial results:

4:33 p.m. ET, February 22, 2020

Sanders team encouraged by entrance poll numbers

John Locher/AP
John Locher/AP

Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign sees a number of reasons to be optimistic about early signs in Nevada following CNN's entrance poll results.

Campaign officials point to results that show a majority of caucusgoers supporting government backed health care over private insurance. This was thought to be a potential weakness for the Sanders campaign because of the influence of the Culinary Workers Union, which has opposed "Medicare for All" but stopped short of endorsing a candidate.

The health care numbers are one of many data points that demonstrate the possibility of a strong showing for Sanders tonight, but his team remains cautious until the final results come in because of the unpredictable nature of caucuses.

“We need to wait until all the votes are cast and counted,” one official said. “We take nothing for granted.”

Sanders and health care: Sanders and sympathetic labor leaders have cast Medicare for All as a long-term winner for union workforces, arguing that any legislation that takes health care out of the bargaining process will ultimately lead to higher wages and new concessions from management.

He reiterated his support for unions at Wednesday's debate: "I have a 30-year 100% pro-union voting record." 

6:48 p.m. ET, February 22, 2020

Majority of Nevada caucusgoers decided who they'd vote for in the last month

Patrick T. Fallon/Reuters
Patrick T. Fallon/Reuters

A majority of Nevada Democratic caucusgoers — around 3 in 5 — decided who they would vote for earlier than this month, while around 2 in 5 decided in the last month.

Slightly less than half of the group that decided earlier than this month are widely supporting Bernie Sanders, while 1 in 6 went for Joe Biden, around 1 in 10 for Elizabeth Warren, and 1 in 10 for Pete Buttigieg

Those who decided in the last month are split between Sanders and Buttigieg, with around 1 in 5 supporting each candidate and slightly less than that for Amy Klobuchar, Biden, and Warren each.

Watch the analysis:

6:48 p.m. ET, February 22, 2020

Sanders leads among white and Latino voters

Entrance polls show Sen. Bernie Sanders with a commanding lead in Nevada among white and Hispanic voters.

With white voters, Sanders has 30% of the vote, followed by former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg with 19%. In terms of Hispanic voters, Sanders commands 54% of the vote, with former Vice President Joe Biden in a distant second with 14%.

When it comes to black voters, Biden leads with 34% followed by Sanders with 28%.

"African Americans make up 11% of the electorate. Hillary Clinton won them going away four years ago, It's part of what drove her success in Nevada," CNN's David Chalian said this afternoon. "It’s so important to who wins Nevada and the delegate race for the nomination overall. When you’re awarding things proportionally, you can be somebody who prevents the number one candidate from getting a majority."

Watch the analysis:

6:48 p.m. ET, February 22, 2020

Sanders has an early lead in new entrance poll

Joe Buglewicz/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Joe Buglewicz/Bloomberg/Getty Images

An entrance poll shows Sen. Bernie Sanders has an early lead in the initial preference of Nevada caucusgoers.

One thing to note: This is an entrance poll of initial preference.

3:55 p.m. ET, February 22, 2020

Biden: "Things are feeling good" in Nevada


Former Vice President Joe Biden stopped by a caucus site this morning in North Las Vegas, Nevada, where he greeted voters, took selfies and shook hands.

Asked whether it's important for him to have a strong showing in Nevada to carry the momentum to South Carolina, Biden replied that he will leave it to pundits to make that judgment but ultimately that "things are feeling good." 

"I think we’re coming into an area that it makes a big difference to me, not only going into South Carolina, but Super Tuesday. And I’ve had a lot of support. So I’m feeling good," he said. 

Biden acknowledged the divisions in the Democratic party, subtly taking a dig at Sen. Bernie Sanders by saying that being able to deliver on promises is key.