As Momentum Grows, Yet Another Early Voting State in Play for Sanders

Sanders riles up the crowd in Las Vegas on Wednesday evening. (Photo: Mikayla Whitmore/AP)

As Momentum Grows, Yet Another Early Voting State in Play for Sanders

At caucus event in Las Vegas Wednesday night, Sanders' supporters "were by far the noisiest and most vocally enthusiastic"

White House hopeful Bernie Sanders, his fervent supporters, and his call for political revolution are likely making Hillary Clinton nervous in yet another early voting state, according to news reports on Thursday.

The Nevada caucuses on February 20 are the third of the U.S. primary season, which, as the Guardian notes, makes the state "crucial for a candidate hoping to build momentum."

And Sanders appears to be gathering that momentum, with Politicoreporting Thursday that the state "is suddenly looking like it's in play, potentially opening another unexpected early state front."

The Sanders campaign has reportedly hired twice the number of on-the-ground staffers as Clinton has, and has nine field offices across the state as opposed to Clinton's seven (as of Thursday). Sanders has also spent hundreds of thousands more on English- and Spanish-language television and radio advertisements in Nevada.

At a caucus dinner in Las Vegas on Wednesday night attended by all three Democratic candidates, "Sanders' supporters were by far the noisiest and most vocally enthusiastic from long before the candidates emerged," Nicky Woolf reported for the Guardian. "Chants of 'Bernie! Bernie!' went up several times before general cheers drowned them out. A small coterie held aloft a rainbow H for Hillary, but as Born in the USA played the candidates in, the chants of Sanders' supporters drowned out the others."

Sanders told the crowd: "All of us want to make sure that we defeat right wing extremism, that we make certain that no Republican becomes president of the United States. That result will not happen with establishment politics and establishment economics."

Recent polls have shown Sanders to be more electable than Clinton when placed in head-to-head match-ups against leading Republican candidates. The Vermont senator highlighted that fact in his stump speech Wednesday night, saying that Democrats need to drive up voter enthusiasm and turnout--as only he can do--in order to win in November.

"We need a president who now has the courage to stand up to the billionaire class and Wall Street."
--Sen. Bernie Sanders

According to Bloomberg, "Clinton's attempts to reach out to Sanders supporters in the crowd of 2,200 drew some to their feet to hold up pro-Sanders signs in silent protest, while others were more vocal in their disapproval. Sanders and [former Maryland Gov. Martin] O'Malley 'have a lot of good ideas and we share a lot of the same values,' she said, drawing scattered laughs and 'no!' shouts from Sanders supporters."

Indeed, this week, Sanders and his backers have underscored the differences between his and Clinton's approach to regulating Wall Street.

"Do I think Hillary Clinton or many other senators have shown the courage that is necessary to stand up the Wall Street power? The answer is no," Sanders said Wednesday on Morning Joe in a response to a question about whether Clinton had provided cover for Wall Street. "We need a president who now has the courage to stand up to the billionaire class and Wall Street," he added.

At the end of December, Sanders revealed he had scored the support of Erin Bilbray, the daughter of former Rep. James Bilbray (D-Nev.) and a "superdelegate" to the Democratic National Committee, which means she can vote for whomever she wants at the convention come July. While Bilbray initially considered endorsing the former secretary of state, she ultimately decided Sanders was better positioned to tackle the issues of the day.

"I have spent my entire career working to engage women in the political process," Bilbray said in a statement to the RenoGazette-Journal. "But at this point the biggest threat to American democracy is the dark money from super PACs that are controlling our elections. Government cannot focus on all of the important issues that affect America's working families when a handful of super wealthy donors, in both parties, have the ability to predetermine who will win the election."

When it comes to big money in politics, she said in a separate interview last year, "Bernie is the only candidate addressing it."

"When I hosted Bernie at my house last week, I called friends who I was positive were Clinton supporters only to find out they liked Bernie, but just didn't think he had a chance to win," Bilbray said at the time. "Here in Nevada, I think I gave people permission to support what they cared about."

For this and other reasons, Clinton has good reason to be nervous.

"Eight years ago," Annie Karni points out for Politico, "Nevada was also supposed to be Clinton's firewall against Barack Obama. She won the popular vote here 51 percent to 45 percent, but Obama ended up taking home more delegates than Clinton and tainted what was supposed to have been a clean win for her."

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