While Bernie Sanders solidified his front-runner status with what appeared to be a decisive victory in the Democratic presidential caucuses in Nevada on Saturday, Joe Biden was in a celebratory mood as he was on track for a second-place finish that would give his struggling campaign new hope.
Sanders, a senator from Vermont, rode a wave of backing from a diverse coalition of young and middle-aged voters, Latinos, union members and white college-educated women to a win in Nevada, showing signs of expanding support for his front-running campaign beyond his long-standing core.
Biden, the former vice president, appeared to score a badly needed strong finish after poor showings in the first two contests in Iowa and New Hampshire for the party's nomination to face Republican President Donald Trump in the November election.
"The press is ready to declare people dead quickly, but we're alive and we're coming back and we're gonna win," Biden told supporters in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
Biden spoke from the IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) Local 357.
Sanders had 44% of the county convention delegates in Nevada with about 11% of the precincts reported, as results were slow to roll in six hours after the caucuses began. Biden was a distant second to Sanders with 25%, but ahead of former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, in third with 15%.
Senator Elizabeth Warren was trailing in a disappointing fourth with 8% in Nevada, where voters poured into more than 250 sites around the state. Senator Amy Klobuchar and activist billionaire Tom Steyer were well back at 4%.
The race now begins to broaden across the country, with the next primary on Feb. 29 in South Carolina, followed by the Super Tuesday contests in 14 states on March 3 that pick more than one-third of the pledged delegates who will help select a Democratic nominee.
Biden is counting on a strong showing in South Carolina, which has a large bloc of black voters, while the Super Tuesday states will bring former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has not been competing in the four early voting states but has been rising in polls, into the race.
Four days of early voting in Nevada this week drew more than 75,000 Democrats, more than half first-time voters, putting the party in position to surpass the turnout record of 118,000 in 2008, when Barack Obama's candidacy electrified the party.
One early voter attended the event held by the Biden campaign. For here, the message was clear.
"I think he's a stronger candidate to win the presidency over Trump," Janifer Bynum, a 51-year old electrician with the IBEW, told Reuters.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now