What Do the Nevada Caucus Results Mean?

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On Saturday, February 22, Democratic voters in Nevada took to their caucus sites to vote for their preferred nominee for the party’s 2020 presidential candidate. Unlike in Iowa, where caucusing efforts proved disastrous, the Nevada caucus resulted in a decisive winner and proved a crucial moment in the race. Here’s what the Nevada caucus results mean.

Bernie Sanders has momentum

In the wake of the Iowa caucus debacle, it was unclear whether Bernie Sanders or Pete Buttigieg would emerge as the early leader among the current Democratic candidates. Buttigieg earned 13 Iowa delegates compared to Sanders’ 12, but the caucusing process was riddled with unprecedented errors and delays. The Nevada caucus results have given Sanders a much clearer result: He currently has more momentum than any other candidate.

Sanders received more votes and was awarded more Nevada Democratic Party delegates than any other candidate. Following the Nevada caucus, Sanders now has 31 total delegates – including 10 from Nevada – as compared to Buttigieg’s 22. Three other candidates, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and Joe Biden, respectively have eight, seven, and six delegates. Sanders was the only candidate to receive delegates in Nevada, and he tied with Buttigieg for the number of New Hampshire delegates received (nine).

These caucus results place Sanders at the forefront of the current Democratic candidates. In the wake of the caucuses, some leading pollsters give Sanders as much as a 46 percent chance of securing the Democratic party’s nomination. However, given the high number of candidates currently running – six – these same projections give Sanders fewer delegates than the 1,990 delegates considered a majority win, so Sanders would only become the Democratic nominee by default.

Ranked-choice voting is useful

2020 is the first year in which Nevada used ranked-choice voting in its primaries. In this setup, voters don’t select just the one candidate they prefer – they instead rank all available candidate options from first to last. Maine became the first state to enact this voting system late last year, and Alaska, Wyoming, Kansas, and Hawaii will all use ranked voting for the first time in this year’s primaries as well. 

The Nevada caucuses suggest that ranked-choice voting might not just be convenient – it might also boost voter turnout. 75,000 people submitted early ballots in Nevada for the 2020 caucuses, and this number is only slightly fewer than the number of people who voted in both the early and the day-of stages in 2016.

Super Tuesday could still change the game

Although the Nevada caucuses gave Sanders a strong lead and attested to the promise of ranked-choice voting, Super Tuesday could still stand to entirely change the shape of the Democratic race. On Tuesday, March 3, 14 U.S. states and two U.S. territories will hold their primaries, and upwards of 800 delegates hang in the balance. California and Texas together comprise 643 of these delegates, so the current candidates may campaign extra strongly in these two states over the next week. March 10, April 28, and June 2 are also primary-heavy dates that could shape the future of the race.

Who is your preferred Democratic presidential candidate? Sound off in the comments!

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