Hillary Clinton regained control of the Democratic race on Saturday. But as a new portrait of a Bernie Sanders voter emerges, she’ll be challenged to keep that control through what could be a very long contest.
Clinton backers can take solace in halting the wave of momentum Sanders rode into Nevada and its caucuses. She weathered an influx of liberals and first-time caucus-goers to win in an unpredictable state.
Yet there’s a flip side. In the most diverse state to vote so far, Sanders pieced together a coalition that draws on both demography and ideology to show he can and likely will challenge Clinton for months to come.
Clinton does have wins in two of the first three states, with a favorable map – starting with next weekend’s contest in South Carolina – ahead of her. There’s no big delegate bounty yet; in Nevada, as in Iowa, the math delivers her only a slight edge, with plenty of contests to come that can shift the balance.
Critically, Sanders showed in Nevada that his campaign can reach a different swath of voters. Sanders carried Latino voters by eight percentage points, even though Clinton won two-thirds of Hispanics in the same state eight years ago. Though Sanders lost African-Americans by a 3-1 margin, he’s at least shown that he can win voters who aren’t white.
Sanders again trounced Clinton among younger voters. Three-fourths of caucus-goers under age 45 supported Sanders on Saturday, and he won nearly 85 percent of those under 30.
Despite the loss, Sanders has a clear claim on the hearts of Democrats. For voters wanting a candidate who “cares about people like me,” eight in 10 chose Sanders. Among those wanting a candidate who is “honest and trustworthy,” Sanders got 85 percent.
Clinton retains a hold on the party’s heads. For voters who value electability in November, more than three-fourths favored Clinton in Nevada. For those wanting the “right experience,” the margin was even more lopsided – north of 90 percent.
Clinton backers have made much of her “firewall” – the cache of states that vote between next weekend and early March that have large numbers of black and working-class white voters. That’s the Clinton base, and she’s better positioned coming out of Nevada to start a winning streak that will quiet the loudest of critics.
Sanders will need to win some states he’s not expected to if he’s going to contend for the nomination.
That didn’t happen in Nevada. The Democratic race, though, very clearly will have two contenders for a good while.