With almost 80% of the precincts in, Clinton was holding a 52% to 48% split of the vote to Sanders. The Associated Press and other networks declared her the winner based on projections.
“Some have doubted us be we never doubted each other,” Clinton told supporters at a victory rally at Caesars Palace. “This one is for you.”
She also said, “The truth is, we aren’t a single issue country. We need more than a plan for the big banks, the middle class needs a raise and we need more jobs.”
Clinton’s campaign and her supporters are hoping that a victory in the state will show that, despite Sanders’ near victory in Iowa and blowout in New Hampshire, her fortunes improve as the Democratic race for the nomination progresses. The state was viewed a few months ago as one of Clinton’s strongholds, with a more diverse electorate.
“Five weeks ago we were 25 points behind and we ended up in a very close election,” Sanders said in a statement. “And we probably will leave Nevada with a solid share of the delegates.”
Sanders said that “taking on the establishment is not easy,” insisting that “we have the momentum.” He said that his campaign was facing a SuperPAC funded in part by “Wall Street and special interests,” a reference to Priorities USA Action, which has been backing Clinton.
Although Sanders said he was next traveling to South Carolina, which holds its primary Feb. 27, he looked forward to wins on Super Tuesday. Clinton leads by wide margins in South Carolina.
CNN early exit polls showed Sanders winning white voters, with Clinton leading among non-white voters.
The most unusual aspect of the state’s voting is perhaps that some of the caucus locations are in casino hotels on the Las Vegas strip, allowing workers in hotels to participate on lunch breaks. Clinton beat Sanders handily at Caesars Palace, one of the sites hosting caucuses. The Trump Hotel was not a location.
Fittingly, in the event of a tie at the caucus precints, state Democratic rules say that a winner will be declared by each side picking from a deck of cards.
Clinton and Sanders supporters, including many from Los Angeles, fanned out across the state in recent days, hoping to boost turnout.
“I am 90 years old, so I like to give a hand to young, aspiring politicians,” entertainer Dick Van Dyke, a Sanders supporter, quipped to Chris Matthews on MSNBC. Sanders, at 74, has drawn lopsided support among younger voters in New Hampshire and Iowa, and CNN entrance polls showed a similar case in Nevada.
Van Dyke appeared at several events in the state for Sanders, a self-described “Democratic socialist.” Van Dyke told Matthews that younger voters “are as bothered as much by that word ‘socialism,'” noting the connotation it has in European countries with a strong social safety net. Van Dyke called Sanders a “New Deal Democrat,” and said he was the first candidate he had actively campaigned for since Eugene McCarthy’s run in 1968, fueled by his opposition to the Vietnam war.
Clinton campaigned on Friday with Eva Longoria and America Ferrera. On Saturday, the campaign released a video in which Will Ferrell urged Nevadans to caucus for Clinton, an apparent switch in his allegiance after being listed among Sanders supporters in a list of endorsements released in September.
Underscoring the atmosphere at some caucus sites, Ferrera tweeted out an incident at a caucus site at Harrah’s casino. “Bernie Sanders supporters chant ‘English-only’ to stop civil rights leader @DoloresHuerta from providing Spanish translation.”