With New Hampshire Behind Him, Sanders Looks to Nevada Workers as Vegas Union Bosses Rally Against Him

The Sanders campaign invested in Nevada early on, with substantial outreach to Latino voters, who make up a third of the population.

Democratic presidential hopeful Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (R) arrives, flanked by his wife Jane O'Meara Sanders to speak at a Primary Night event at the SNHU Field House in Manchester, New Hampshire on February 11, 2020. - Bernie Sanders won New Hampshire's crucial Democratic primary, beating moderate rivals Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar in the race to challenge President Donald Trump for the White House, US networks projected. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP) (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)
Sen. Bernie Sanders, right, and his wife, Jane O'Meara Sanders, at a primary night event in Manchester, N.H., on Feb. 11, 2020. Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images

In a return to the state that gave him a soaring victory during his last contest for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders again clinched a win in New Hampshire. The result is the second popular-vote victory in a row for Sanders, who captured the greatest share of first- and second-preference votes in Iowa.

New Hampshire is relatively friendly territory for the Vermont senator, whose hometown media market overlaps with parts of New Hampshire. Early reports suggest that unlike Iowa, which had relatively low rates of turnout, New Hampshire voters went to the polls at rates approaching or exceeding 2008 levels, a record high. He carried 42 percent of the Latino vote and 33 percent of voters without college degrees, according to preliminary results from CNN.

Like in Iowa, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg performed strongly, coming close behind Sanders in voter support. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar surged to a third-place finish, but both she and Buttigieg have a difficult path ahead, given their lack of support in Super Tuesday states and among voters of color. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden both finished in the single digits, without earning any delegates — a debilitating blow to their campaigns.

In 2016, if New Hampshire was the state where the Sanders campaign first came to life, Nevada was where it died. Sanders was hopeful for a victory in the caucuses there but fell just short, 53 to 47 percent, amid acrimony and allegations of misconduct. It dampened his momentum heading into South Carolina, where he was trounced.

2020 could be different. Nevada is also considered the first real test of a presidential candidate’s appeal to voters of color. Latinos make up almost a third of the state’s population, and Sanders is counting on strong support from the voting bloc to carry him to victory. Biden, meanwhile, ditched his own primary night party in New Hampshire to head over to South Carolina, which holds its contest a week after the Nevada caucuses.

At the same time, the leadership of the powerful casino workers’ Culinary Union — Unite Here Local 226 — ramped up its attacks against Sanders on Tuesday with English and Spanish-language flyers, texts, and emails to its 60,000 members.

The Granite State has a long tradition of populist and anti-war movements going back to the near victory of Eugene McCarthy in the 1968 Democratic primary. McCarthy’s strong showing in the state on an anti-Vietnam War platform convinced incumbent President Lyndon Johnson to abandon his reelection campaign. The American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker initiative, has made New Hampshire its focus for organizing communities around issues of justice, especially on foreign policy and poverty.

Sanders’s message on challenging economic inequality, promoting Medicare for All, and his leadership in opposing the Iraq War and the more recent push to cut U.S. support for the war in Yemen provided a clear contrast with his competitors and a clarion call for voters, particularly those between the ages of 18 and 44, a demographic he readily won thanks in part to college and youth organizing efforts. But 29 percent of voters who said foreign policy was their most important issue voted for Buttigieg, and 9 percent supported Sanders.

In many respects, the Sanders victory was equally a defeat for the Warren and Biden campaigns. In October, Biden and Warren enjoyed a comfortable lead in the polls. Warren, after a disappointing showing in Iowa, had hoped for a comeback in New Hampshire, which also shares a media market with her home state of Massachusetts.

Buttigieg, who declared victory in Iowa despite a hazy tabulation of state delegates, benefited from momentum going into New Hampshire. Thirty percent of voters who said they decided on their candidate within the last few days supported him. (Thirty-six percent who decided before the last few days voted for Sanders.) On the airwaves, VoteVets, a Democratic soft money group, poured roughly $400,000 in advertisements in support of Buttigieg, hoping to harness enthusiasm for the former mayor as he headed into New Hampshire. Buttigieg carried 33 percent of voters with household incomes over $100,000, while Sanders got votes from 34 percent of voters with household incomes under $50,000.

Klobuchar, who had earned about 20 percent of the vote as of Tuesday night, led among white college-educated women and voters who supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primary.

Two candidates — Andrew Yang, a 44-year-old former businessman who campaigned on giving every American adult a monthly check for $1,000, and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet — dropped out of the presidential race as primary results began rolling in.

The Vermont senator also faced a variety of hurdles going into the election. Cable networks, particularly MSNBC, favored by Democrats, had spent the days after Sanders’s popular vote victory in Iowa skewering the senator, with hosts going so far as to compare his zealous supporters to Nazis and to claim that a presidency led by Sanders could lead to mass executions.

For the first time, Nevada will be holding several days of early voting ahead of its February 22 caucuses. Early voting, which runs from February 15 to 18, will take place in over 80 locations across the state. In response to last week’s disaster in Iowa, however, Nevada Democratic officials are abandoning plans to use the app whose issues contributed to ongoing delays and inconsistencies in their results. Instead of using the app, which was developed by a company known as Shadow Inc., the Nevada Democratic Party will be using a “tool” preloaded to iPads and distributed to precinct chairs.

The Culinary Union, which is mostly made up of women and Latinos, has been actively discouraging support for Sanders and Warren over Medicare for All, warning its members that a single-payer plan would “end” their health care — despite not yet having made an official endorsement in the race. Chuck Rocha, a senior Sanders adviser, said the campaign has been reaching out to culinary workers directly. “We’ve been directly calling them at their homes, talking to them at their work sites, and sending them mail, we’ve sent hundreds of thousands of pieces of mail to culinary workers who are Latino in Nevada talking about where Bernie Sanders stands,” Rocha said. “And we have huge support among the culinary rank-and-file.”

As part of its Latino outreach efforts, which began earlier than many of its rivals, the Sanders campaign connected with voters through Spanish-language literature, mailers, and “Unidos Con Bernie” events across early states. Similar efforts worked in Iowa, where the Vermont senator won 52 percent of the vote across high-density Latino caucus locations, a recent analysis by UCLA’s Latino Policy & Politics Institute found. Biden came in a distant second at 15 percent. Sanders also swept the four Spanish-language satellite caucuses, winning votes from 430 of the 483 people who attended them. Buttigieg has had trouble making inroads with Hispanic voters, but received 11 percent of that demographic’s vote in New Hampshire on Tuesday. He spoke Spanish during his closing speech. The campaign faced criticism last month for not having yet fully translated its English-language website into Spanish.

“We spent over a million dollars to talk to Latinos in Iowa, so you can only imagine the kind of money and resources we’re putting into Nevada to make sure that we win the Nevada Latino vote by as big a margin as we won the Latino vote in Iowa,” Rocha said.

One of the campaign’s most powerful surrogates, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., recently headlined a Spanish-language town hall for Sanders in Nevada. And in late January, the Sanders campaign announced it would be launching ads in the state, two in English and one in Spanish. The Spanish-language ad, titled “Nuestro Futuro,” highlights Sanders’s immigrant father, who came to the United States without speaking English. Sanders has spent $1.7 million on ad buys in the state, more than almost every other Democratic candidate.

Sanders, who has 10 offices and over 200 staffers in Nevada (54 of whom are Latino), is also getting organizing help from Make the Road Action, an immigrant rights group that endorsed him in January. The organization, which had never made a presidential endorsement before, aims to knock on 600,000 doors nationwide for Sanders in 2020.

Biden, Warren, and Buttigieg also have specific teams dedicated to Latino outreach, but their ground game heading into the Nevada caucuses hasn’t been as extensive as Sanders’s. Of the first four states to cast ballots in the Democratic primary, Nevada is the state that Warren has visited the least. And in the lead-up to the February caucuses, Politico reported last week, a half-dozen women of color departed her roughly 70-person Nevada team “with complaints of a toxic work environment in which minorities felt tokenized.” After a third-place finish in Iowa, Warren also canceled roughly $350,000 of TV ads that were set to run in Nevada and South Carolina. Last month, Biden’s campaign released its first Spanish-language ad as part of its “seven figure” investment in the state, according to the Nevada Independent.

Buttigieg, who has been struggling to make inroads with people of color overall, consistently polls in the single digits among Latino voters. Some Latino activists have even described the former mayor’s outreach efforts as “nonexistent.” In December, the Buttigieg campaign rolled out its first ad buy in the state, which included Spanish-language radio and digital ads that he narrated himself, titled “Primer Día Sin Trump.” The former South Bend mayor’s campaign has spent $94,000 on ads in Nevada.

Tom Steyer, who skipped Iowa, has been blanketing the airwaves in Nevada for months. Steyer, one of the two billionaires self-funding their campaigns in the Democratic presidential primary, has already dropped almost $124 million on ad buys, including $13.8 million in Nevada alone. His spending sprees have led to small surges in both Nevada and South Carolina polls. (There haven’t been any reputable surveys coming out of Nevada, which is notoriously difficult to poll, for almost a month.)

Correction: February 12, 2020
A previous version of this article misstated the number of Sanders staffers in Nevada as over 100, half of whom are Latino. There are more than 200 staffers, and a quarter of them are Latino.

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