LISTEN: Nevada Caucuses Live Coverage
MICHEL MARTIN (HOST): Senator Bernie Sanders is having a big day today. From NPR News, this is live Special Coverage of the Nevada caucuses. I'm Michel Martin.
SUSAN DAVIS (HOST): And I'm Susan Davis. Nevadans are making their choices for the Democratic presidential nominee known today.
MARTIN: Senator Sanders recently spoke to an energized crowd as entrance polls show him in the lead.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING) BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT, SEN/PRES CAND): We can create a government that is based on compassion, is based on love, is based on truth, not what we have now of greed, corruption and lies.
DAVIS: But there's still a lot to learn today. We have reporters covering all of the candidates and analysis here in the studio.
MARTIN: Stay with us. This is live Special Coverage of the Nevada caucuses from NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) MARTIN: I'm Michel Martin, and I'm joined here in the studio with so many - Domenico Montanaro and Danielle Kurtzleben and my colleague Susan Davis. And glad to have you all here in person. Sue, it's nice to get you out of the booth on Capitol Hill.
DAVIS: It's great to see you in person, Michel.
MARTIN: Yeah, we can actually walk around a little bit. We're going to start with results because the results are coming in hard and fast. Domenico, what do we know?
DOMENICO MONTANARO (BYLINE): Well, we've only got about 1% of precincts reporting so far, but Bernie Sanders so far has an early lead according to those results. You know, there's - it's not enough to really draw any huge conclusions. But if you look at the entrance polls so far, Bernie Sanders looks like he's doing quite well and may have a big day because he's leading across most groups, not just the usual groups that you would expect from Sanders' progressives, people who are under 30 years old. He's leading with them, but he's expanding that base, it looks like, according to those entrance polls.
Now, people should understand those entrance polls are done before the caucusing actually happens. So people can change their minds as they're in there. They can - remember there's a lot of resorting when it comes to this. You have to get at least 15% in each caucus site in order to get any delegates at all. So these numbers will change.
MARTIN: But again talk about the sort of the breadth of the people who are voting for Sanders so far, I mean, because again, there have been certain sort of storylines that have developed. We've only had sort of two contests so far, but certain still storylines are developing. It's young people who like Bernie Sanders.
MARTIN: It's young people of color who like Bernie Sanders. It's older voters don't like Bernie Sanders. And what you're telling us so far is that that's not the case here.
MONTANARO: Well, look, Nevada has been our - you know, the first state with a diverse electorate, right? I mean, in 2016, it was 41% nonwhite. It looks like it's similar to that this time around. We'll see what it is when the numbers eventually re-weight themselves. But you have about 17% of the electorate or so, about 1 in 5 voters who are Hispanic. And Bernie Sanders is leading by a huge margin according to the entrance polls with Latinos. He is over 50% with them. And you think about how fractured and splintered this field is. No one is even above 20% of the others.
He's doing quite well actually in second place with African American voters who make up about 1 in 10 voters at the caucuses in Nevada. They were a significant chunk in 2016, about 13%. And they really helped Hillary Clinton over the line to be able to win. But what we've seen with Bernie Sanders is, sure, Joe Biden is winning with Latinos, but he's - I mean, with black voters, but he's only getting about a third of them. And Sanders is a pretty close second - so doing pretty well across a lot of groups.
MARTIN: Well, I think you also told us a number of things that might be surprising to some people, the fact that there is a significant African American vote in Nevada. I'm not sure that's something that everybody knows. The fact that there is a significant Latino vote, I'm sure people have sort of heard that but they may not know just exactly how important it is to the Democratic election. Why don't - we have a little bit of time and while we're still waiting for sort of big results to come in, could you just remind us of the process? Because the fact is Nevada is a little different than Iowa. I mean, I think people have this idea of caucuses as everybody goes to, like, the gym or the community center and hopefully there's snacks - I would assume there's snacks - and then...
MONTANARO: Snacks are always...
MARTIN: I would want snacks.
MONTANARO: You know, I've got some snacks next to me, so...
MARTIN: So - and then they kind of decide, and it's a long night. But there's early vote - and there's just - it's different in Nevada. Could you just break that down for us? Just tell us how it works, and how is it possible that there's early voting in a caucus state?
MONTANARO: There's a lot of questions there, but let's - so let's tackle some of what the process is, which is actually quite similar to Iowa this time around. Again, you have to have a 15% threshold to get any delegates, OK? So you walk in there. You sort yourself and say who you're with, which corner you go to. If that person has - if your candidate has above 15%, then in the second round, then people resort who'd got below 15% to go to the other candidate.
Now, we've seen a couple instances, for example, where Elizabeth Warren was one short of 15%. On the second round, they were able to actually convince one supporter of somebody who wasn't viable to make her viable for the second round. So that's all doable and all possible.
You know, with the early voting which is the first time they're actually doing early voting in Nevada, it's really fascinating because, again, how would you possibly do early voting with a caucus? Well, what they're doing is essentially ranked-choice voting, where you pick your first choice. And they say if that person is not viable, who would you go to? And they give a second choice and so on. So they'll factor that in. And we've seen a pretty high turnout for early voting already, with about 70 to 75,000 people who've come out. There's only 84,000 turnout overall in 2016. And about 118,000 is the record from 2008.
DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN (BYLINE): We should also say that, you know, early voting really does expand accessibility because caucuses, as we talked about during our Iowa coverage - caucuses mean, you know, you can only show up if you're free. So, yes, early voting allows more people to participate. Aside from that, one thing that Nevada Democrats have also done is they have had early vote - an early-voting site on the strip in Las Vegas and also some late-night caucus locations for people who work odd hours. And there are a lot of those. If you've ever been to Las Vegas, you know that. So making sure that people are able to participate as much as possible.
DAVIS: It's a different state with very different voters, and we should bring in now political correspondent Scott Detrow and Asma Khalid who are on the ground in Las Vegas. Hey, guys. How you doing?
SCOTT DETROW (BYLINE): Hey there.
ASMA KHALID (BYLINE): Hey there. How are you?
DAVIS: I'm good. Scott, I want to start with you because you've been following the Sanders campaign. You were listening to Domenico. We see maybe an early surge for Sanders. Does that corroborate with what you're seeing and hearing on the ground?
DETROW: Yeah. The two things that the Sanders campaign was really hoping to get out of Nevada was, first of all, an across-the-board win. The results are still very early, but it looks like they are out to a good start on that front. And they also really focused on growing that base. There's been so much conversation - even though Sanders won New Hampshire, he basically tied on top of Iowa with Pete Buttigieg. Each time, it was with about a quarter of the vote. There's been a lot of question of, can Bernie Sanders grow his base? So they're really hoping to get north of 30% to show that he can increase his support.
And they also really want to - they're hoping that tonight's results underscore something that the Sanders campaign has been confident about for a long period of time but feel like they haven't gotten a full amount of credit for. And that is the breadth of support that Bernie Sanders has among Latino voters, among other voters of color across the country, that they feel like that's something that, you know - for all the conversation about African American voters supported Joe Biden, they feel like he hasn't tapped into a strong relationship with a lot of voters here. And they're looking forward to today's results bearing out their theory of that.
DAVIS: It's so important because Nevada is one of the first states where we're seeing - hearing from a lot of nonwhite voters. That Latino support, how does the Sanders campaign explain why he has so much support among Latinos?
DETROW: Among other things, they have really had a big presence on the ground in not only states like Nevada, but also a lot more presence in the Super Tuesday states, like California, like Texas, which have significant populations of Latino voters. Something that his supporters at rallies, at caucus sites like I went to today will tell me - and this cuts across, you know, all ethnicities and ages, I'd say - people who are really onboard with Bernie Sanders often point to the fact that he has such a long track record, that you can find quotes from the 1980s, the 1990s, the 2000s where he's making exactly the same pitch. And they feel like, especially a lot of his health care positions and some of his social justice positions, are something that, you know, Latino voters in Nevada are really on board with.
DAVIS: Now, Asma, you're at a Joe Biden campaign event in Vegas at the Bellagio Casino, yeah?
KHALID: Actually, I was at the Bellagio...
DAVIS: You were there earlier.
KHALID: ...Earlier today to check out a casino site. And I've just moved over to the Biden where - well, where the Biden celebration will be. I will say it is a pretty sparse at the moment, though.
DAVIS: Well, obviously the Biden campaign looking for signs of life here in Nevada. What are your takeaways? What are - what have voters been telling you?
KHALID: Sue, I will say to kind of echo what Scott was saying there, I think one of the most interesting things to me is in part I went to the Bellagio site because there had been a lot of chatter this cycle about the powerful Culinary Union. And I had seen Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden actually all speak to those Culinary Union members at various town halls. And long story short, there was some concern from the leadership about Bernie Sanders' "Medicare for All" plan because the union has a really good health insurance plan at the moment. And I wanted to see if whether those concerns were kind of filtering down to the members.
Long story short, Bernie Sanders seemed to get about double the amount of votes there at that Bellagio caucus site where it was mostly Culinary Union members. And to me, that was just a really stark sort of sense of reality of what's happening on the ground because I think if Biden really wants to do well here in Nevada, he needed to peel away some of those Culinary Union members.
DAVIS: What does that tell you, that the leadership of the union and their position may not fully reflect their membership?
KHALID: I mean, long story short, I feel like a lot of the members told me they understand that they have really good health care, but they want to have better health care for everyone. They do - they do agree with the vision that health care in the country, regardless of whether or not they sort of have currently a good system, needs to be improved.
And I would say this is something I heard from a number of Sanders supporters across the board when I asked them why they're supporting him. It was largely health care. And on occasion, I also heard about education. I spoke with one woman. Her name is Mariama Saba (ph). She's a massage therapist. And, you know, we were talking about who she likes. And I asked her about Joe Biden, and ultimately she says that she came down to decide that she's not for him.
MARIAMA SABA (NEVADA VOTER): So I like Biden on a lot of levels. But - and I hate to say this 'cause I don't want to be accused of ageism - but I feel like Biden in his responses to things over the course of this campaign has been a little fuzzy. And I feel like we need somebody that's really on their game.
KHALID: And so, Sue, I mean, it's worth pointing out that Biden is actually younger than Bernie Sanders. But she finds that Sanders has just been sharper in his debate performances and she believes would be better equipped to take on Donald Trump.
DAVIS: You've been talking with the Biden campaign. How have they set expectations for where they're standing and what it means in Nevada?
KHALID: So they say that they expect to do well. Joe Biden himself in interviews has made the point that he feels like a first-or-second-place finisher would be solid. I mean, so I think it's tough because I think if you really look at the momentum that Bernie Sanders has developed, I would make the case that in some ways Nevada and the diversity of Nevada is perhaps more representative of the future of the country. There are really sizable populations of, you know, Latino voters, Asian American voters, as well as African American voters. And so he has long said that he will do better once this contest moves on to more diverse states. My question is if a candidate like Bernie Sanders who performed well in largely white states also beats him out by potentially a sizable margin here today, does that really - I don't know - does it sort of poke holes in his notion that he will do better in diverse states, especially as we move on to states like California and Texas that have really sizable Latino and Asian populations as well?
DAVIS: Well, we're going to let you guys get back to reporting. Scott Detrow and Asma Khalid on the ground in Vegas, thank you very much.
KHALID: You're welcome.
MARTIN: Well, we've been talking quite a bit about the fact that Nevada is the first state with a more diverse population than we saw in the early contests. So earlier today, I spoke with Senator Catherine Cortez Masto. She is one of two Democratic senators in the state of Nevada. She's also the first Latina to serve as a U.S. senator. And given all the things that we've talked about, I asked her about how well the candidates have been doing in their outreach to the diverse communities in her state.
CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO (D-NV, SEN): Here's what I know. We have a third of the population are Latinos. We have the fastest-growing AAPI population in the country, very strong, vibrant African American population, along with a Native American population. And they're turning out. They're paying attention. But you have to be talking to them now. You can't come last minute a month before the final election and say, oh, I want your vote and I want to talk to you. You've got to be engaged and in those communities now. And I don't care what community you live in, it is about economic security for their family, good jobs, education for their kids, access to health care. That is similar no matter what community you're talking to.
MARTIN: Do you feel that there has been enough of an effort among Democrats to register and energize and get these voters out? Because that is one of the ongoing criticisms - I'll just have to say it - of the party apparatus, as it were. So are you seeing that effort to get people, you know, registered, organized and out?
CORTEZ MASTO: Well, I can see it in Nevada, absolutely, because that's literally what we have to do. So, yes, I see that organization. I see that happening in Nevada. Now, I can't speak for the rest of the country. But I definitely know it's happening in Nevada.
MARTIN: We wanted to talk more about that outreach, so we've got Clarissa Martinez De Castro on the line. She is a deputy vice president at the Latino civil rights organization Unidos. Clarissa, thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it.
CLARISSA MARTINEZ DE CASTRO (DEPUTY VICE PRESIDENT, UNIDOS): Thank you. It's great to be with you.
MARTIN: So let's talk more about the - some of the things that we've been sort of touching on so far. First of all, how significant are the registration outreach efforts on the ground in Nevada? What are you seeing there?
MARTINEZ DE CASTRO: Well, one of the things we know - right? - every time the election cycle rolls around, there's all these questions about whether Latinos vote or not. And what we do know is that once registered, Latinos in presidential elections vote at levels very close to other groups. Eighty to 83% of Latinos who are registered vote. The problem is - and you were talking about this a little bit - there's just not a lot of investment in actually closing registration gaps in our country to make sure that eligible Americans are registered to vote. And so...
MARTIN: OK. Clarissa, can I get you to take a brief pause here - just a brief pause here. We're coming right back to you. We just need to take a brief pause to say you're listening to live Special Coverage of the Nevada Democratic caucuses from NPR News. And we're back with Clarissa Martinez De Castro on the line. Clarissa, excuse me. Pardon the interruption, as they say. Would you pick up your thought there? You're saying that we find that when Latinos are registered, they do come out. Tell us more.
MARTINEZ DE CASTRO: Absolutely. Nevada is the perfect example of what happens when candidates and parties do their job to make sure that they are known to the community, that their positions are known and that they are reaching out and that there are investments to close that registration gap. Registration is 10 percentage points higher in Nevada than in the rest of the country.
And that's not just good for Latinos, frankly, for any voter who cares about affordable housing, which is a major concern in Nevada, about the cost of health care, about sound and good schools and, yes, about an immigration system that we can be proud of. The growth of the Latino electorate is a great development because those are the things that these voters care about and want to see progress on.
MARTIN: Now, you've told us about the issues that are of particular interest to the Latino voters that you have surveyed. And I think I heard you say health care is No. 1, housing costs is up there, too. Do you have any data or any insight into what kinds of traits voters say they're looking for? Because, you know, with a larger Democratic electorate, there's this conversation about the progressive lane versus the moderate lane - the progressive lane saying these are people who are going to fight for the things that you believe in, people in the moderate lane emphasizing the fact that they're going to work across the aisle.
Do you have any sense of how the Latino voters you've surveyed feel about that? Where are they?
MARTINEZ DE CASTRO: Absolutely. We did polling with our community to make sure that we're lifting up what voters want to see, not just how they feel about all these different candidates. And what we heard is indeed, and particularly in Nevada, voters want to see somebody who fights for their priorities but who is also willing to compromise to get things done. The second trait that was very important was that they want to see a candidate who values diversity and can bring people together. And the third one was a candidate who has realistic and achievable ideas and policies. So, yes, we have very aspirational vision for the nation, but we also understand that we need to make progress and we need sensible solutions. And the bulk of Latino voters tend to be in that space.
MARTIN: OK, before we let you go, I'm going to ask you the e-word question. I know it's become a dirty word with some people - but the electability question. Do you have a sense based on your polling of what kind of candidate Latinos believe - that Latino voters whom you surveyed believe is electable? Is that even something you've asked?
MARTINEZ DE CASTRO: We did not ask people directly about that. But the one thing I would tell you on the flip side is that the majority of voters are growing increasingly alarmed about anti-Latino and anti-immigrant rhetoric and are very concerned that if President Trump gets elected, that will get worse.
MARTIN: All right. That is Clarissa Martinez De Castro. She is a deputy vice president at the Latino civil rights organization Unidos. Clarissa Martinez De Castro, thank you so much for sharing some time with us today.
MARTINEZ DE CASTRO: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) MARTIN: This is live - oh. This is (inaudible).
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) MARTIN: This is live Special Coverage of the Nevada Democratic caucuses. I'm Michel Martin.
DAVIS: And I'm Susan Davis. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders continues to make a strong showing as early results roll in. And we have our correspondents in Nevada to give us a sense of what caucus-goers and state party leaders have been telling them. Joining me now is Don Gonyea and Claudia Grisales. Hey there.
CLAUDIA GRISALES (BYLINE): Hi there.
DAVIS: Now, Claudia, you have been on the...
DON GONYEA (BYLINE): Hey, guys.
DAVIS: Hey, Don. Claudia, you've been on the ground for several days. You've been spending time with many campaigns. What are the voters on the ground telling you about what matters most to them as they've been making up their mind?
GRISALES: I'm hearing multiple themes when I talk to the voters. At one end, they're saying they're tired of President Trump's administration. Many have said they're worried about anti-immigration rhetoric. At the other end, though, they are emphasizing jobs, the economy, health care, that those are top of mind. And so those are some of the things I'm hearing so far from voters here.
DAVIS: Claudia, you've spent time with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren's campaign, another candidate struggling to get a foothold in these early-state contests. What's the sense of the support for her there and how you expect her to fare today?
GRISALES: Well, she has been doing a lot of work, traveling Las Vegas from north to south to the Strip, trying to reach out to these Democratic voters of all stripes, ages, races and trying to make her case that she is the one that will come into office and on day one, she'll be moving everyone out from the Trump administration, which is music to many people's ears here. At the same time, she did have some struggles before Nevada. She has found new life here, but it's not clear if it's going to be enough. So that's what we're waiting to see happen.
DAVIS: I'm curious if you've heard any voters bring up her debate performance 'cause she had a very strong debate performance. And we saw in New Hampshire, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar got a real lift from a strong debate performance just prior to that contest. Has anyone brought up that factor to you?
GRISALES: Very much so. When I've seen her go to sites, for example a soul food restaurant in north Las Vegas, to a recent visit to a taco eatery closer to central Vegas, the theme for many voters to her is, I like what you did to that mayor. I like what you did to Bloomberg in that debate. Great performance. They're very proud of her in terms of how she approached it.
At the same time, she's also highlighting it, saying, yes, you know, this is what I'm going to be doing. I'm going to be asking and pushing billionaires like Bloomberg to do more for our country. So that theme was very loud here from voters and her alike.
DAVIS: Don, what about Pete Buttigieg? He's another candidate who - Nevada is different in that it has a lot more nonwhite voters than Iowa and New Hampshire. And nonwhite voters are the exact voter the Buttigieg has had a hard time appealing to. What's your reporting on the ground telling you?
GONYEA: So he has been reaching out to those voters through Spanish-language ads. And he's done events. He's done events with - you know, with Native American voters as well. But you don't get a sense that there's any kind of a groundswell toward him or that it's really breaking through. That's at least in conversations that I've been having with people. Yes, you do see Latino voters at his events, but still, just, you know, a small number compared to the - compared to the total audience. But he's also been speaking pretty candidly about his record as mayor when it comes to racial issues. He acknowledges not being responsive enough at times and kind of having a blindspot on certain issues. There was that incident last summer where a white policeman shot and killed an African American man, and there was a lot of tension after that. He says he's learning from all of these things. He's acknowledging he should have done more.
He likes to talk about how 40% of the members of his staff are persons of color. He says that doesn't mean, oh, look at Pete. He got (inaudible). He said that means there are people close to me and around me who will tell me when I get it wrong because of my personal experience.
DAVIS: Don, so much about caucuses are about ground game, about organization. Which of the campaigns have sort of mastered Nevada and have had the most strategic ground resources?
GONYEA: It's - you see a lot of people have been talking about Bernie Sanders. And you certainly see Sanders folks everywhere, but also Biden and also Warren to a large degree. I'm at a caucus site here in Henderson. It's a suburb of Las Vegas, a mostly white suburb. And so at this particular caucus where there was 93 votes counted - looking at my notes here - but only 31 of the people actually in the room because everybody else voted early. But this was a caucus where Joe Biden just happened to do very well with again a mostly white, tending-to-be-older crowd, but Bernie behind him and then Pete Buttigieg as well. And you can see around this caucus site the grassroots-organizing presence of Warren, of Sanders, of Biden.
DAVIS: Well, you talk, Don - you talk to more voters than maybe almost anyone I know. What are the issues that Nevada voters have told you that has been making up their mind between these candidates?
GONYEA: You know, they still talk about wanting to beat Donald Trump. I mean, that is - that seems to be first and foremost trumping - any trumping - there we go - any single, you know, issue. But you also see person after person say they're worried about their health care. They're worried about premiums going up. They're worrying about the cost of drugs. So that's important, too. And then occasionally you do, you know, have somebody bring up a water use and land use and public lands. But mostly it has been those same big issues, especially Donald Trump himself, that we've been hearing all over the country.
DAVIS: Do you get the sense - you were - said you were at a precinct where there was a lot of Biden supporters. Among those more moderate lane of voters, is there concern about Sanders especially as he increasingly looks like one of the front-runners if not the front-runner in the Democratic primary?
GONYEA: I had a lengthy conversation here with a gentleman who came as an Amy Klobuchar supporter, and his concern was that without a somewhat centrist candidate, that they'll have a hard time beating Donald Trump. And he specifically said, you know, Trump will use the socialist label to great effect against Bernie Sanders.
He ended up - this particular caucus-goer ended up moving over to the Biden group when Amy Klobuchar wasn't viable after the first round of voting. So, you know, you do get those kinds of discussions. There is a sense, at least among the more centrist participants, that Bernie Sanders will run into real trouble in a general election. Of course, you know the Sanders supporters push back hard against that.
DAVIS: Right. That's Don Gonyea and Claudia Grisales, NPR correspondents on the ground in Nevada. Thank you both so much.
GRISALES: Thank you.
GONYEA: It's a pleasure.
DAVIS: And joining me now is Geoconda Arguello-Kline, the secretary treasurer for the Culinary Workers Union. Thank you so much for joining us.
GEOCONDA ARGUELLO-KLINE (SECRETARY TREASURER, CULINARY WORKERS UNION): Thank you for inviting us.
ARGUELLO-KLINE: Now, first for many of our listeners who may not know, could you explain what the Culinary Workers Union is to Nevada and why it's so important politically?
ARGUELLO-KLINE: It's very important political because we are the largest some immigrant organization. We represent 60,000 workers. They're working with their families. They 135,000 people using our health care. And we always communicate with the members for every single issue affecting in the state and the federal. And every election, we take a lot of time for people going to vote. You know, we make a lot of phone calls. We do knocking doors. We're talking to them. We give a lot of knowledge about the issues, we present candidates. We're doing very intense work. You know, our union always being No. 1, I think - and try to approach every member to understand what's going on.
DAVIS: Well, I would like to talk about the issue of health care with you because the Culinary Workers Union has taken, on the leadership level, this opposition to Medicare for All. But as you - what many of our correspondents on the ground there said that at caucus sites with many of your union members, there has still been support for Senator Sanders. So can you explain sort of that disconnect?
ARGUELLO-KLINE: Well, one important thing I think everybody has to remember, we did a press conference of the union. We're not endorsing anybody. We are endorsing our goals. We have a lot of goals. One of our goals was having immigration reform for 11 million people and looking for a candidate who can fight for that and present what they're going to do to the members and that we have the economics. We want one job to be enough. We've been fighting for years to keep in the middle class in Las Vegas in the job as a guest room attendant, for our kitchen workers, food servers. And we want to have a choice. We want to everybody to have the right to have health care, and we want to have an option from the government so they can join the government. And we want to have a choice to give the health care.
And I think that today we feel great because we really worked so hard to put that message out. And we have supported members, saying talking to the members about going to vote. We don't say vote for this one or vote for this one or vote for this one. They have the free decision to make. And you look at the numbers at the end, you are going to see what it's going to be for, one, Medicare for All, and, one, it's going to be for choices. That's sort of - at the end of the night tonight, I hope we get the result.
But I think that the information is out. And people always forget that the casino is not only our union who votes. You know, you have these dealers vote, the supervisors vote, the - everybody in the casino, you know, not only the people we represent. But our responsibility is to communicate with the members, to let them know when is - where is the vote, what time they have to show up, working with the company so they're letting them go to vote. You know, we do so much work for people to vote their voice. I think we feel very successful about that because we've been having it great till now.
DAVIS: But your union has also clashed again with Senator Sanders. You said just last week that many of his supporters had been viciously attacking union members. Have you seen any of that confrontation on the ground today?
ARGUELLO-KLINE: No union members are being attacked personally. You know, we have followers of Senator Sanders. You know, I respect every presidential candidate. But the fact is the fact. I pressed on the fact to the press they we received zillions of - you know, thousands of Twitters saying in phone calls and threats and saying this only because we put the facts in a scorecard about the health care. That's completely wrong. I hope that that game is stopped because I think our people have the right to know the facts.
And one thing I - you know, I'm really a strong person. But one of the things that really bothers me, my family had to go through that part. And Bethany Khan is the communications director - for only we communicate because Bethany put the scorecard in the, you know, in texting. We put the scorecard inside the hotel. After that, it was incredible, the attack.
And the only thing what we want is people have the information. That's our responsibility, you know? We have a commitment with the members. You know, we have elected leaders. We have a responsibility to let it know them - how every single candidate is standing on every single issue. This is a very important election for us. So it doesn't do any - I'm an immigrant. I know President Trump wants all the immigrants out of this country. I know we have 11 million people sacrifice every single day going to work, doing everything. And they're living in fear because he always tried to put the fears in every single family.
We work so hard for people go to vote. And today we feel great, you know, because people vote. And people vote for all different candidates, you know? And they work so hard, these candidates, too. And that's what we did.
DAVIS: OK. Well, thank you so much. That's Geocanda Arguello-Kline, the secretary treasurer for the Culinary Workers Union on the ground in Nevada. Thank you so much for your time.
ARGUELLO-KLINE: Thank you.
MARTIN: Let me let me go back to Danielle Kurtzleben who is here with us in our studios in Washington, D.C. Let's pick up on something that the secretary treasurer just talked about.
MARTIN: Complaints about harassment by Sanders supporters is not new, but it's not something that people have generally wanted to talk about publicly. Can you just shed some light on what she's talking about here?
KURTZLEBEN: Sure. So what happened here is this, is that the Culinary Union 226 that Ms. Arguello-Kline is the secretary treasurer of, she - that union had put out a sheet sort of stacking up the candidates against each other on various issues, including health care. And that sheet said under Bernie Sanders, who is of course a vocal supporter of single-payer Medicare for All, it said that he wanted to end Culinary health care. And the thing is people in this union have pretty generous health care compared to what a lot of other people do. So that upset some supporters, and that's what happened.
MARTIN: We need to take a short break, but when we come back, we'll have more coverage. You're listening to live Special Coverage of the Nevada Democratic caucuses from NPR News. We hope you'll stay with us.
And we're back with Laila Wallace who's the mayor of Wells, Nev. Madam Mayor, thank you so much for joining us.
LAYLA WALZ (WELLS, NEVADA MAYOR): Thank you. Thank you for having me.
MARTIN: Now, I understand that you voted early.
WALZ: I did have to vote early, yeah. I'm not - I'm not in Nevada today to caucus unfortunately.
MARTIN: Well, just how - what are you hearing from your constituents about how things are going?
WALZ: Well, you know, I'm in a very heavily Republican part of Nevada. And so, you know, there's not a ton of Democratic support from my constituency in general. I'm a lifetime Democrat, and we're, you know - we're such a small community. And so there are a few of us there. You know, and we all seem to have our own preferences and constituents. And so, you know, it's respect among your fellow community in a small town like that.
MARTIN: Well, do you think - and that's - that's one of the reasons we're glad to talk with you because you say that you're kind of one of the - a small group of Democrats. It's a Republican-leaning area. You've endorsed Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind. Were your Republican neighbors in mind when you chose him as your candidate? Is - were you thinking to yourself that here's somebody who could possibly appeal to my neighbors, who might be willing to give a Democrat a look?
WALZ: Absolutely. That was one of the biggest factors, I think, in selecting Buttigieg is because we are, you know - we're heavy agriculture. We're a super conservative community and region. So somebody who appeals to our needs and listens to our needs in ways, that is super important for me, you know, as a community leader and for my region. He absolutely - I think that he's electable. And that's one of the biggest goals for me.
MARTIN: Well, you know, there's another mayor in the race. He didn't...
WALZ: Yes, there is.
MARTIN: He's not on the ballot in Nevada. And I was wondering if you considered the other mayor in the race who feels that he's accomplished some things that merit a look, mayor - of course we're talking about Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City. I know he's not on the ballot, but is he somebody that you would consider or that you've given any thought to?
WALZ: You know he - I just feel that he was such a late-comer that he's just way behind the game at this point. We just don't know enough about him. He's just not had the opportunity to address the public that some of the early candidates have. And I just don't know enough.
MARTIN: Talk a little bit if you would about the fact - we've been talking a lot about the fact, as most people are about, Nevada is the first state among the early contests that really kind of opens up diversity, has a more diverse population. Pete Buttigieg has struggled with some voters of color, even though he does have a diverse staff. What are your thoughts about that? Why do you think that is?
WALZ: I really - I really couldn't say it. It may have to do - I really just couldn't say why he would struggle with voters of color. We're just not - we're not in a region in northern Nevada where we have very many voters of color.
MARTIN: Do you still feel that he's got a chance? You still feel he's viable.
WALZ: Oh, absolutely. I think he's very viable, very viable. He's got some great policies great perspectives, up to this point, one of the front-runners. I think he's a very viable candidate.
MARTIN: Well, it's great to talk with you. That is Mayor Layla Walz of Wells, Nev. Mayor, thanks so much for talking to us. And you're listening to live Special Coverage of the Nevada Democratic caucuses from NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) MARTIN: This is live Special Coverage of the Nevada Democratic caucuses. I'm Michel Martin.
DAVIS: And I'm Susan Davis. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders maintains a commanding lead as early results are coming in. And let's take a minute at the beginning to talk about how the caucus votes are being counted, which is of a particular importance given what happened just weeks ago at the Iowa caucuses.
Joining me to talk about that is NPR reporter Miles Parks. Hey, Miles. How are you doing?
MILES PARKS (BYLINE): Hi, Sue.
DAVIS: So how is it going on the ground? You were on the ground in Iowa. You saw the fiasco that happened there. How is it comparing to what's happening in Nevada?
PARKS: Honestly, it's going a lot smoother than what we saw in Iowa.
DAVIS: That's a good thing.
PARKS: It is a really good thing, even the fact that we have some results to talk about only very few at this point - you know, less than 1% have come in. But you think about where we were in Iowa hours - you know, even, like, 12 hours after the caucus process had already finished, and we were still basically kind of twiddling our thumbs and saying, well, hopefully we're going to get these soon. At least we have something to talk about just a couple hours after, you know, people in Nevada went to the caucus sites.
DAVIS: Well, there's been some nervousness because Nevada was supposed to use the same app that went haywire in Iowa. They opted against that. Can you very briefly sort of explain how are these votes being counted and why are people confident that this is going to turn out differently?
PARKS: Yeah, so they scrapped this plan to use the app that Iowa was going to use and instead went to the system to use these iPads, party-provided iPads that they were given to every precinct chair in the state. These iPads use a series of Google Forms that the precinct chairs, as they went through the process counting people in different sections of the room, they would basically input this data into the Google Form. And then it would calculate - add in the early-vote totals that had come in for each precinct and then give them a number and help them calculate each candidate's viability score.
At the high school I went to to observe today, there was a guy with a nametag that said tech guy. He was passing out these iPads to a dozen or so precinct leaders. And they were kind of logging in, putzing with them. But the key is all these precinct leaders were trained earlier this week. It wasn't the first time that they were seeing these. It was the first time they were seeing these specific iPads, but they got a chance to practice with this tech earlier this week.
DAVIS: And did they have - let's say there's a tech malfunction and it's not working, is there a backup plan?
PARKS: There is, and that's something that Nevada Democrats have been very adamant about talking about, the fact that everything that these iPads were planning to do, these precinct leaders were trained to be able to do it on paper as well. They got paper lists of all of the early voters for their precincts. So if they were either not able to log into the iPad or they just didn't want to use it, they would be able to pull out these reams of paper and do everything manually.
DAVIS: But so far, it sounds like the tech is working.
PARKS: It seems like the tech is working. At the precinct I was observing, it was actually helping things go really smoothly. It was really easy to log in, and things were getting input easily. The interesting thing is the second part of this is something we're watching now, which is the transmission of results. This doesn't necessarily involve the iPads as much.
But these 2,100 precinct leaders are going to need to call the state party to actually tell them how these results went down in all these different precincts. The Nevada Democrats say they beefed up their phone line, that they staffed it with 200 people to make sure that they would be able to take all these calls. But we'll just have to see over the next hour or couple hours whether these precinct leaders are able to get in easily and get these results to the state party quickly.
DAVIS: Well, one thing that Nevada has also done very differently from Iowa is this is the first year that they've allowed people to early caucus. And I believe it was around 75,000 people have already cast their ballots prior to today in the caucuses. Does that help facilitate a more smooth process if you let it, you know, play out over a couple of days?
PARKS: Well, it's interesting. It was something we were watching the last couple of days knowing how big that early-vote total was over the four days that early vote happened. We were wondering, were those people who were already going to vote or caucus on Saturday, or were those new voters? From the precincts that our team has been watching and the precinct I've visited, it seems like the latter. There were very few people actually caucusing in person at this high school. The precinct chair I talked to said he was told to expect 125 people, and there were 27. So that is actually kind of helpful when you think about the fact that these precinct chairs are having to talk to all these people and sort them. The process can go a little quicker when you're dealing with fewer people.
DAVIS: All right. Well, Miles, if you - if you see any signs of trouble, you let us know, OK?
PARKS: I will. You'll be the first person I tell, Sue.
PARKS: All right. That's Miles Parks from Las Vegas. Thanks so much.
MARTIN: Can I know, too? Miles, you're going to tell me, too?
PARKS: You can know, Michel, as well.
MARTIN: Thank you.
PARKS: Yeah, I'll bring you in.
MARTIN: All right, let's talk a little bit more about logistics, especially with rural voters. For that, we're going to go to Noah Glick who's a reporter with member station KUNR. Noah, are you with us?
NOAH GLICK (BYLINE): I am. Thanks for having me.
MARTIN: OK. All right, great. Good to talk with you. So you're at the station now, but earlier you attended the Pyramid Lake caucus location. And that's at the Paiute Reservation in northern Nevada. Do I have that right?
GLICK: Yeah, that's right. It's that the Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation. That community is made up of essentially three townships on the reservation. But what's interesting about what happened today is that the Nevada State Democratic Party, the way they drew up the precinct for the reservation, it actually split one of those communities basically in half. So half of the community of - half the people in one community actually had to drive into town, which is a little bit farther away than meeting at a central location at Pyramid Lake High School, which is where everyone else met.
So there are some people who are frustrated, and actually at least three people were turned away at the door because they were at the wrong site. And the precinct leader I talked to said that one of the people he talked to said that they weren't going to be able to get to the other site in time. So that's at least one person who wasn't able to participate today.
MARTIN: And that's because the distances are so large?
GLICK: Yeah, pretty much. I mean, it takes, let's say, 15 minutes for folks to get from one community to the central high school where this site was today. But to get into town, it could take, you know, 40, 50 minutes depending on where they are. And from some of the folks I talked to, they really just - they like to have tribal people take care of the check-in process, to caucus with fellow tribal people. So a lot of folks are turned off frankly by the idea of going into town, where it's a little whiter and a little bit less like their community.
MARTIN: Well, talk a little bit more about that if you would. I mean, we've talked a lot about other communities in Nevada, that Nevada brings a diversity that isn't - it isn't present in the sort of - the earlier caucus state. So talk a little bit more about the Native voters there, what they're interested in. Are there any particular other challenges or opportunities to registering and energizing these voters?
GLICK: Sure. Absolutely, I mean, I think the big issue - if we're talking just issues, the biggest thing I heard from people today as well as during early voting was that they're concerned about federal funding for tribal programs. We're talking about Indian education, health care services. Those seem to be top of mind for folks. But the other really big issue that I hear consistently all has to do with climate. Everyone I talked to at the site today, they were pretty upset with a lot of the rollback of environmental regulations they're seeing from the Trump administration. And the other big thing that is unique specifically here in Nevada, about 85% of the state is managed by the federal government. So public land is a big deal here and particularly among the tribal community. Mining is a huge industry here, oil and gas drilling. That stuff happens on public lands a lot. And those are getting closer and closer to tribal lands, tribal boundaries. And that can leave a legacy of toxins in the environment, which is really important to these folks. And, you know, but there's also urban sprawl that's happening both in Las Vegas and up north near Reno that's starting to creep on to tribal lands as well.
So, you know, a lot of folks are really just trying to protect the natural resources that they have. For the Pyramid Lake Paiute people, it's the lake itself. They don't want to see development at the lake. They don't want this to become another Lake Tahoe. They really just want to keep it as pristine as possible.
MARTIN: And of course you know I'm going to ask, did the voters that you had a chance to speak with identify a candidate who they thought was really speaking to those issues? I know there was a candidate, Jay Inslee of Washington, former - was a candidate who really identified climate as his top issue. He exited the race early not having had the opportunity to make much traction. We know that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg feels that he's made climate a priority. I know that other candidates like Tom Steyer feel that he's done so as well. Did the voters you talked to think that any particular candidate is speaking particularly to the issues that they identify as most important to them?
GLICK: Absolutely. The big winner today among the people I spoke to was Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. He won every precinct that had people show up in person today. He won the biggest precinct at the site today - there were eight precincts that all met at the high school. The biggest one gave out three delegates. Bernie Sanders took home two of those, and Elizabeth Warren took home one.
But everyone I talked to, they seemed really impressed with the fact that Bernie Sanders met with tribal officials when he came through Nevada earlier this year. And that's really important to folks here is getting that face-to-face time and actually feeling as though they're heard. You know, the historical trauma faced by Native American voters is still a very real thing on top of mind for folks. So I think they want to make sure that they feel like they're part of the process and that they feel like they're heard. And Senator Sanders is someone who's listening.
MARTIN: All right. That is Noah Glick. He's a reporter with member station KUNR. Noah, thanks so much for talking to us.
GLICK: Thanks for having me.
DAVIS: The Nevada Democratic caucuses are the first time that Latino voters are having a say in the Democratic nominating contest. And one of the groups that has endorsed Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is Mijente, a Latino civil rights group created in 2015. And joining me now is Marisa Franco of that group. Marisa, how are you?
MARISA FRANCO (MIJENTE): I'm good. How are you?
DAVIS: Thank you so much for joining us. Now, your group made its first ever presidential endorsement this year for Senator Sanders. How did you come to that conclusion? Because you had debated internally among several different candidates.
FRANCO: Yes, so our membership decided that we wanted to go through this process to be able to really build up momentum to take on Donald Trump and the reelection campaign for 2020. We did interviews with several of the candidates to really understand their positions on issues that really matter to our community and did internal debate and ended up making a decision earlier this month. And the vast majority of our membership thought that Bernie Sanders was a candidate to go with. And so we just made the announcement earlier this week.
DAVIS: Was there a specific issue or issues that ultimately had you land on Sanders?
FRANCO: I mean, I think for sure his positions on immigration, but also, you know, issues around climate, issues around economic justice. But I would say I think there's two things that stand out with Senator Sanders' candidacy. One is that he has been consistent. It is not a situation where you see him changing his positions based off of polls or, you know, you look back on statements he's made on things like health care - for example, six months ago, and they're drastically different. There's a consistency, and I think that consistency is a real sticking point for folks in our community.
And I think the second piece that is really compelling for folks in our community is that the senator - I think people are really tired of, you know, the political games where elected officials or folks running for office will kind of say what you want to hear, but when it comes time when they actually are elected and they're in office, they're very quick to fold when there's any pushback on bold solutions for the problems our communities are facing. And we're looking for a candidate that's going to fight as hard as we are. And we believe that that candidate is Senator Sanders.
DAVIS: Can I ask you about health care? Because his plan for Medicare for All has been - has divided the Democratic Party. You know, there's many candidates in the race who do not support it. He clearly has been the longest and most vocal for it. How does your group see health care as an issue there? And do you think it's potentially a risky political position to take in a general election?
FRANCO: I think it's risky to continue to go with solutions that aren't actually getting at the problem. I think people seeing that these issues are not dealt with when you see the grotesque nature of what people have to go through to get basic health care needs met, people lose confidence. They lose confidence in government. They lose confidence in elected officials. And so Senator Sanders being willing to talk about what it's going to take to solve these problems is refreshing. And I think you're seeing in Nevada and you're going to see in states coming up that people are ready for that change. And it's exactly the type of change that we need going up against Donald Trump in 2020.
DAVIS: Great. That is Marisa Franco of Mijente a Latin civil rights group - a Latino civil rights group. Thank you so much for your time.
FRANCO: Thank you.
DAVIS: Joining me in studio is political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro. Domenico, I'd like to get your reaction to this 'cause I do think we should - it's important to note that Latino voters are having their first say today. And we're hearing a lot of different messages.
MONTANARO: We are. The thing that, you know, stands out to me is just how separate the Democratic electorate is on replacing private health insurance versus the country overall. You know, our polling had found in December that, sure, some 58% of Democrats nationally were in favor of Medicare for All. But it was pretty unpopular with Independents and Republicans, making it majority people not supporting it.
And we saw - we see that in the entrance polls today as well, where Nevada Democrats - 62% said they're in favor of health care as a government health care plan that would replace private health insurance. And we saw pretty moderate-progressive splits like we've seen on a whole lot of other things. When you look at who is leading among those who support that, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are the only two that do well, right? Then on the other side of that, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar do well with those who oppose it.
This has been the fundamental split among Democrats for, you know, 13 years. I mean 2007, that race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton was all about health care. And it still is.
DAVIS: That's Domenico Montanaro, live in studio. You are listening to live Special Coverage of the Nevada Democratic caucuses from NPR News.
And this is live Special Coverage of the Nevada Democratic caucuses from NPR News. And we want to go back to the ground in Las Vegas where we have now joining us Joe Schoenmann, host of the program "State Of Nevada." How are you doing, Joe?
JOE SCHOENMANN (BYLINE): I'm doing well. thanks.
DAVIS: You know, we are here in Washington. But you're on the ground. You have producers from KNPR out all over the state. What are you hearing on the ground, and what are caucus-goers telling you?
SCHOENMANN: Well, one thing we're hearing thankfully is it's going unbelievably smoothly. Nobody really expected that. But again only about 10% of the vote is in, if even that. Bernie Sanders has a massive lead over Joe Biden, then Pete Buttigieg.
And what's surprising is that, what some of our producers and reporters at sites where we thought a lot of culinary workers would show up, they're finding a lot of support for Bernie Sanders. And as your guests earlier had talked about, that's kind of surprising because the Culinary Union had come out and said, we don't like Medicare for All.
But the huge concern with people in this state is - there is a poor health care system here now. It is getting better, has gotten better over the last couple of years. But health insurance rates are rising quickly, and they're finding that a lot of companies are then cutting back on what people get through their health insurance. So I think health care for all, Medicare for All is sounding better and better to people here.
DAVIS: Also this year, the early-voting system seems to be working smoothly. Maybe it has smoothed out some of those issues that could have happened as we've seen out of Iowa where people have been able to vote and the caucus sites aren't overrun and seems to be going pretty well.
SCHOENMANN: That's kind of a stunner.
(LAUGHTER) DAVIS: It's good news. Good news.
SCHOENMANN: It is good news. There were 70,000 early votes over four days. That did not go that well for the people who had waited. The waits were anywhere from 1 1/2 to six hours, I've heard from some people. So maybe everybody got their votes done, and today, there are just going to be a lot fewer people out there. So it's going well.
And the Google Forms, the Google Sheets app that they're using, which is going to automatically tabulate and calculate the priorities - the prioritized presidential candidates seems to be working well. That goes into the caucus system here, which is sort of - to people who don't know it, it's this convoluted system that a lot of people really don't understand. But it basically involves this. If you're at a caucus and your candidate doesn't get 15% of the votes of the people at the caucus, your votes then go to a different presidential candidate.
Those early ballots prioritize candidates so that if your first person didn't get there, your second votes go automatically to somebody - to the second person on your list. It sounds complicated. It is, but I think people understand it in the - and the system's working.
DAVIS: Really quickly before we have to take a break, one of the candidates not in Nevada, Michael Bloomberg, is he still having an impact in this race?
SCHOENMANN: I think so. I mean, the only reason why is because he put up a huge billboard on the Las Vegas Strip saying, Donald Trump made a casino go bankrupt. That has been in the news everywhere here. And it's really - seems to resonate with people 'cause this is a casino town.
DAVIS: That is Joe Schoenmann, host of "State Of Nevada" for KNPR in Las Vegas. Joe, thank you so much.
SCHOENMANN: Yeah, you're welcome.
DAVIS: And you are listening to live Special Coverage of the Nevada Democratic caucuses from NPR News.
MARTIN: Early results show Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders with a sizable lead. From NPR News, this is live Special Coverage of the Nevada caucuses. I'm Michel Martin.
DAVIS: And I'm Susan Davis. Nevadans are making their choices for the Democratic presidential nominee known today.
MARTIN: Senator Sanders spoke to his supporters as early results appear to show him heading towards a win.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING) SANDERS: We can win the Democratic nomination. We can defeat Donald Trump.
(CHEERING) SANDERS: And we can transform this country. Let's do it. Thank you.
DAVIS: But there's still a lot to learn from today's caucuses. We have reporters covering all of the candidates and analysis here in the studio.
MARTIN: Stay with us. This is live Special Coverage of the Nevada caucuses from NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) MARTIN: So we've been following results. They are coming in slowly, but they are coming in. And Bernie Sanders is showing a substantial lead. We're going to go back to our reporters on site. Asma Khalid is at the Biden caucus day event in Las Vegas. She's there now. So let's start with you. Anything going on - a little party starting there maybe.
KHALID: Hey there. At Joe Biden's site, you can hear the music behind me, but folks haven't really filtered into the room yet.
MARTIN: So the entrance polls show that Senator Bernie Sanders is doing well. I think that the reporting indicates that Joe Biden, the former vice president, was hoping that he would do better in states that were more diverse than the early deciding states. So how are things going with the Biden campaign? How are they feeling about things? Polls don't show him doing well at all, frankly.
KHALID: I mean, to your point, frankly, polls show Bernie Sanders winning a majority or I should say a plurality of pretty much every demographic group at this point. I believe that the entrance polls showed Joe Biden winning African American voters and just older voters. And, look, I think this is a really big question about his case of electability. His campaign has long argued that he would do better once this contest moved on to more diverse states. Well, Nevada was the first test of that argument, and, you know, he has said - his campaign has argued that they didn't necessarily expect to win the race here but, you know, a first or second place finish would be good. In fact, one of his supporters even yesterday told me a third place finish he felt would be OK. But I would argue that if Bernie Sanders wins this race by large margins, that's just a really hard argument around electability to pitch as you move into South Carolina.
MARTIN: And I want to ask you about something that just came out. I understand that the former vice president is committing to a full moratorium on any deportations in his first 100 days. That's a shift for him, isn't it?
KHALID: So this is a pretty big statement. I would say it was first reported by BuzzFeed News, but I did get confirmation from the Biden campaign as well that they have said that Biden is absolutely committed to a 100-day moratorium on any deportations of people who are already in the United States. This is an idea that actually Bernie Sanders put forward, and I will say it is an idea that is largely supported in many Latino communities. Many of the Latino progressive activists I talked to in terms of asking why they supported Senator Sanders, that fact that he came out so early on in such a bold way around a moratorium on deportations they felt was really a key sign of how he felt about their community. And, look, I think for the former vice president, this is a pretty big statement. I mean, he has been questioned publicly many times about the record level of deportations that occurred when he was the vice president to Barack Obama.
MARTIN: And, OK, let's go to Scott Detrow now, who has been with the Sanders campaign. Scott, you're with us?
DETROW: I am. Yeah. He is...
MARTIN: All right. So let's look forward a bit because the Sanders campaign is, too. I just want to mention that Senator Sanders is actually in Texas right now, right?
DETROW: Yeah. Usually when a campaign has already fled the state before the polls are closed, it's a sign that they don't think they're doing so well. I think a good example of that would be Joe Biden leaving New Hampshire the day of the New Hampshire primary. But Bernie Sanders feels very confident about Nevada. The very early results bear that out - though, again, only about 3% reporting. He actually spent more time campaigning in California the last few days than he did in Nevada with only one event here in Nevada in the last few days. And today, it's multiple stops in Texas. What do California and Texas have in common? They are the two biggest delegate prizes on March 3, Super Tuesday, a day where about a third of the overall delegates will be awarded. The Sanders campaign has been spending a lot of time in these states, a lot of resources in these states as they build out their schedule over the next few weeks. They are going to be doing events in South Carolina, which is, of course, the next contest, but they are mostly focused on March 3. I talked to Sanders' campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, about this last night in the back of a Sanders rally. And he made the point that this has been a campaign that has been primarily focused around that upcoming date for months now.
FAIZ SHAKIR (BERNIE SANDERS PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN MANAGER): We were most aggressive in California. We've had close to 100 staffers. We are in North Carolina, in Virginia, in Massachusetts, in Maine, in Utah. You know, we have staffers spread out all over March 3 states - Texas obviously a big one. And I think if all goes well with the momentum that we now have, March 3 should be a day when we can open up a delegate lead and never look back.
DETROW: And I think that's a big reason why a lot of people in the Democratic Party are now thinking this is Bernie Sanders' nomination to lose at this particular point in time. There's just no other campaign other than that of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg that has the financial resources and the organization in these upcoming states that start voting on March 3 and then the week after, the almost just as big Super Tuesday that comes after that.
MARTIN: I was going to just - just a little bit more on that, Scott, if you would before I go back to Asma. Does anybody else have the resources to go for a while in this campaign?
DETROW: Well, Bloomberg obviously has his endless pocketbook. He's spent about $500 million, which, for him, is remarkably not that much money. I think one thing that we're looking for today is how Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren does. Her campaign has seen a lot of momentum in the days since that debate where she had a pretty strong performance really eviscerating Michael Bloomberg and making a lot of other points. Her campaign says that she - they have raised north of $12 million since that debate, which is a remarkable amount of money, especially considering the amount of money that she had on hand in the last campaign finance report, less than $3 million.
So she was a candidate who for a lot of reasons seemed to be on the ropes who suddenly now has the resources to put more money on TV in a lot of these upcoming states. Though it's interesting to note that I also saw Bernie Sanders' campaign release a whole bunch of events in Massachusetts, one of those states that has voting in the next few weeks feeling like they can take Elizabeth Warren out in Massachusetts, that could be a way to kind of coalesce that progressive lane.
MARTIN: All right. So let's go back to Asma on this. Asma, how are the other candidates or are the other candidates responding to this show of confidence from Bernie Sanders?
KHALID: I mean, I think Scott's point about the way that Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren fares here in Nevada is a really valid point. According to entrance polls, one of her best groups today was people who decided in the last few days. The trouble for her with that is that about 75,000 people have already voted early. You know, she had a strong debate performance, and there was a woman I met at the caucus site I visited earlier who told me she really liked Elizabeth Warren. In fact, she had been leaning more towards Bernie Sanders, and I said, well, what are you thinking? You know, what are you ultimately going to do? And she said that as much as she likes Senator Warren, she feels that there are more supporters already going towards Bernie Sanders. And she feels like he tends to do better with minority groups. And in the long run, that may be more important for the candidate who needs to take on Donald Trump.
So how we - I think Super Tuesday - I know we've all been saying this kind of ad nauseum, but I think it is a really, really important voting day. I mean, you're going to have a day between California and Texas. You will have - a majority of all the Latino voters who are going to vote in this primary season will have cast their ballots in just the next couple of weeks.
MARTIN: So I did mention that Senator Bernie Sanders has already moved on. He's in Texas. Are the other candidates still in Nevada even though we don't have a call yet? Or have they also moved on, too?
KHALID: A lot of candidates are moving on. I'm here at the Joe Biden celebration party, which hasn't entirely kicked off yet, but he's in fact really one of the only candidates having a true celebration or party if I could call it that here. Elizabeth Warren is going to be in Seattle - I believe Washington tonight. Pete Buttigieg has a rally in Colorado. A lot of these candidates realized the organizational strength of the Sanders campaign here. And because there are just so many delegates at stake between Super Tuesday and a couple of, you know, days after that, they've decided they need to focus on some of those really delegate-rich states.
MARTIN: All right. That's Asma Khalid and Scott Detrow. They are both in Las Vegas or thereabouts. Thank you both so much. We'll keep going back to you later on in the evening.
DETROW: Thanks so much.
KHALID: You're welcome.
DAVIS: Early Nevada caucus results suggest a strong showing for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. And joining us to talk about what that could mean for his campaign is the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz. Mayor, thank you for joining us.
CARMEN YULIN CRUZ (SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO MAYOR): Thank you for having me.
DAVIS: So if Senator Sanders is - you know, it's too early to call it, but he is - early indication, he's going to have a good night in Nevada. What does a win here mean for his campaign?
CRUZ: Well, it means the reaffirmation to everybody of a couple of things. No 1. - his electability. There will no longer be that dialogue or that narrative that nobody likes Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders is too radical (ph). He's not electable. He has the most popular vote in Iowa. He won New Hampshire, and it certainly looks like he's going to have a great night in Nevada clinching, of course, that state. But it also means something even more important for the movement that Bernie is creating. It is an understanding that minority groups and Latino groups are not an asterisk on the conversation when it comes to Bernie Sanders. They're not going to be in the back burner just to be used as pawns in a chess game that is politically motivated. Bernie has been fighting for the types of things that Latinos, Asian Americans, African Americans, Muslims, LGBTQ, you know, all of these groups that when you put them together really are a force to reckon with. I went to Broadacres Market to campaign many weeks ago for the Sanders campaign - as you know, I'm a co-chair - and also want to the Cardenas supermarket. And it - for the Latino population in Nevada, it was about meeting the state representatives, the Democratic representatives, the Democratic structure, but it was also about building a true grassroots organization.
That is the same thing that happened in New Hampshire, in Iowa, and it's happening all across the United States. It also means that Bernie's commitment, courage and consistency are finally really ringing with all the voters. You know, he doesn't have to pay millions of dollars to have somebody know what he thinks. He knows what he stands for, and we know what he stands for - immigration (unintelligible) protection to DACA students. Somebody on the show earlier was reported that Bernie Sanders came for this prohibition or amnesty on deportations. Why does he do it? Not because it's politically convenient but because it is what is right. This idea of having a rent control across the United States, not allowing landlords to really take people for every penny that they have, the idea that health care and education are a benefit, not a privilege - all of these things resonate not only with the Latino voters in Nevada and the African American voters, but it really resonates with anyone that has their heart (ph) placed and living in a society that is fair and just. And furthermore, there's the issue of climate change. Bernie has been dominating the conversation. Bernie has been dominating the ideas that have been circling around in the Democratic Party. And really this has been really taking people for a storm (ph). So I am very proud to be part of this organization and part of this political revolution and movement.
DAVIS: Well, I want to ask you about electability because you brought that up. And one thing that we have seen out of these early state contests is the, quote-unquote, "moderate lane" candidates collectively do get more votes cast than the progressives in the race. So does that raise questions of long-term electability if a lot of Democratic voters aren't where Bernie Sanders is on a lot of these issues?
CRUZ: Well, you know, the question - the answer - the succinct answer is no, and let me tell you why. In the last 10 polls for the last week, Bernie Sanders came ahead on each and every one of them. The other thing that Bernie continues to pound on is when it comes to trustworthiness and when it comes to the candidate that you trust the most, Bernie comes out on top. When it comes to the candidate that Democratic voters feel that will be more able to - can not only commit but do the things that he says he's going to commit to, Bernie comes out on top. And I'll give you an example. One of the most beautiful things that has been happening right now - and as we know, our brothers and sisters from the Culinary Union in Nevada decided not to back any candidate. But one of the most beautiful things that is happening is that members of the union, from the Culinary Union, are going in huge numbers to the caucus in Nevada, and they're caucusing for Bernie Sanders. Why? Because Bernie was in the picket line before it was politically expedient to be on the picket line because he led and has led the war - and it is a war - the war on raising that minimum wage to a living wage because he says it and people think it is a market mantra, but it's not. It's the way that he has lived his life...
CRUZ: ...Fighting for the working class.
DAVIS: Thank you so much for your time. We'll have to leave it there. That is the mayor of...
CRUZ: Thank you very much.
DAVIS: ...Mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz. You're listening to Special Coverage of the Nevada Democratic caucuses from NPR News.
MARTIN: And now we're going to Congressman Bobby Rush, a Democrat from Illinois. He's a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and he has endorsed the former mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg. And in fact, he's a national co-chair of the Bloomberg campaign. Congressman Rush, thank you so much for joining us.
BOBBY RUSH (D-IL, REP): Well, I certainly thank you for the invitation.
MARTIN: Well, out of all people I think that people might be surprised are supporting Mayor Bloomberg, I have to say, Congressman Rush, you're one of those that's kind of catches people's attention. You're known certainly as a very progressive member of the caucus. You've been a longtime member of the Black Caucus. You're a former member of the Black Panthers back in the day. And, you know, as you know, the - Mayor Bloomberg has gotten a lot of criticism from people in the African American community for a number of reasons. But he took quite a beating from the other candidates in his first appearance on the debate stage the other day, including because of his prior support for the stop-and-frisk policy when he was mayor in New York. So I presume you've talked to him about that, and how did you resolve that for yourself?
RUSH: Well, I tell you, he took meeting (ph), and he wasn't prepared in his own heart and mind - particularly, in his mind - for this. He was in an alley fight when he was trying to and expecting him to be fighting with Marquess of Queensbury rules. I mean, this was not a referee-controlled fight. This was a fight that was the WWF at its best. And he was totally shocked and knocked off his square (ph) and wasn't prepared for it. But I think that that was a good lesson for him. And we'll see whether or not he, you know, will listen to his campaign team, take their advice and know that he's on the ropes now.
MARTIN: OK. But I'm more interested in you, Congressman. Why are you supporting Mayor Bloomberg? Why is he the person who has your vote? I know you were worth Kamala Harris first, but she's left the race, the former - the California Senator Kamala Harris. What made you decide to cast your lot with Bloomberg?
RUSH: I thank you for that question because, one, I thought that he was the best candidate over the long haul to be Donald Trump, all right? That's the one thing, that he is the best candidate to match him against Donald Trump in November. And secondly - and a close second - Mike Bloomberg enunciated a policy that is rare among all the other candidates for nomination and never was there strong economic development commitment to an African American community. And that's what we've been lacking in the national political arena for decades now is someone who is committed specifically to create and expand black home ownership, to expand the number of black-owned businesses, to invest...
MARTIN: OK. Congressman, we're going to have to leave it there for now. I hope we'll talk again. That's Bobby Rush, congressman from Illinois. You're listening to live Special Coverage of the Nevada Democratic caucuses from NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) MARTIN: This is live Special Coverage of the Nevada Democratic caucuses I'm Michel Martin.
DAVIS: And I'm Susan Davis. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders maintains an early lead as results from the caucus sites are rolling in very slowly. We're going to take a closer look at these results, and to do that, joining me in studio is NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Hey, Domenico.
MONTANARO: Hey there.
DAVIS: And NPR's Daniel Kurtzleben. Hey, Danielle.
DAVIS: So, Domenico, what do we know?
MONTANARO: Well, so far, only 3% of precincts are reporting according to the Associated Press, who's - which is who we rely on for data. And in that data, we have Bernie Sanders ahead with 55% of the vote and everyone else.
(LAUGHTER) DAVIS: Who's coming in right after Bernie?
MONTANARO: You know, you have Joe Biden in that about 18%, Elizabeth Warren about 10%, Pete Buttigieg 9, Tom Steyer at 8. Now, those numbers are going to change because this is 3%. We have 97% of the precincts still out. So I wouldn't pay much attention to that data, but what the entrance polls at least have shown us of the people who are - have walked into the caucuses who were polled before they went in, Bernie Sanders does well across almost all groups. And it looks like, you know, he should have a pretty big day today with Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden doing fairly well. And some of the other candidates, you know, may be competing as well maybe for fourth or fifth place. But it looks like a bit of a gap between Sanders and Biden and Buttigieg.
DAVIS: Well, step back for a minute and talk about what Nevada means in the broader context of this Democratic primary nominating contest because, you know, Iowa is still a question mark. But Bernie Sanders won second place there. He won New Hampshire. If tonight - what does a win - a potential win in Nevada mean tonight for the overall race in his campaign?
MONTANARO: Well, so two things - one, the overall race, you know, there are a lot of candidates who had a lot on the line. Bernie Sanders was the favorite going in. So a favorite's bar is to win, right? And it looks like if he does pull that off, he's met the bar, and it seems that potentially he's exceeded it. If he exceeds what was the expectation, that he can hold on to his base of young voters, people, you know, who identify as very liberal, that base might have been enough to get about a quarter of the vote. But you got to get more than that if you want to get to look like you're starting to expand. Now, we've had some early signs in our national polling, the NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist polling, that he was starting to expand at least a little bit - low 30s is where he was at in our poll - 31%. And he was in - he was doing similarly in some of the other national polls that came out. So if he starts to match that, that looks like people are starting to get on board the Bernie train - right? - on board the Sanders Express or whatever you want to call it.
But, you know, the other candidates have a lot on the line. I mean, Joe Biden in particular has promised that he could do well with voters of color. According to the entrance polls, Biden is winning with African Americans, but not much ahead of Bernie Sanders, and Sanders winning overwhelmingly with Latino voters. And Joe Biden needs at least, you know, a top-three finish here to have any kind of momentum heading into South Carolina, where African Americans dominate there.
DAVIS: Danielle, one thing the entrance polls also told us is that health care is still an issue that is the most dominating force for a lot of voters.
KURTZLEBEN: Right. Yeah, and this is something that I've been out there talking to a fair number of voters. I was just in South Carolina. And you ask any Democratic voter, what's your biggest issue? They'll say health care. But often they talk about the problem and not the solution. Often they'll say, listen, my costs are too high. They don't necessarily have a feeling of and I want Medicare for All to fix it or a public option.
And this is borne out by a poll that came out this week. The Kaiser Family Foundation put out this poll asking people, Democrats and Republicans, what kind of a plan do you favor? Sixty-two percent of Democrats say they support both Medicare for All and a public option. So for all of the fighting, all of the sound and fury we see on that debate stage, voters themselves just want things fixed. It's not necessarily that they have that same fight with each other.
MARTIN: Isn't this in part, Domenico, the first sign that what Democratic voters have been saying all along is true, that they say what they most want to do is beat Donald Trump and all else is secondary...
MARTIN: ...In part because we've been sort of focusing on the fact that, you know, there are these differences of opinion about how health care should be handled. Danielle just brought us some information about that - but that they're willing to vote for a candidate that they, you know, may not agree with on every subject as long as they think that that's a candidate who can win.
MONTANARO: The problem is there's not a, you know, quantifiable metric that everyone can agree on to say what electability means. You know, it's a pretty amorphous, ambiguous thing. If you are a Sanders supporter, you die hard - you are a die hard who believes that Bernie Sanders can win and would have won in 2016 - right? - if he was on the ballot instead of Hillary Clinton, they believe that. It's a very difficult thing to quantify. And there are a lot of Democrats who fervently disagree that Bernie Sanders can win and beat Donald Trump. But, you know, you don't know if that's actually true until the race is run.
MONTANARO: Danielle has something to say, and then we're going to bring Miles back in.
KURTZLEBEN: Well, I want to get at something - I agree with everything Domenico just said. I want to get at something we're seeing in these entrance polls, though. When you - when they ask Nevada voters, do you care more about someone who can defeat Trump or someone who agrees with you on the issues, two-thirds of people said, yeah, I want someone who can defeat Trump. So OK electability is a big deal.
But among those people, the differences are very narrow between Sanders, Biden, whatever. The groupings, the order of candidates is very close. When you talk to people about the issues, Sanders won those voters. He won half of those voters. So you could make the case that, yeah, the issue is his stance, his pretty far-left stances are, like - put him over the top in Nevada, however important electability is.
MARTIN: It is interesting that we heard from our colleague in Nevada earlier who hosts a talk show there who started talking about the actual problems with health care, the way people are experiencing the health care system, the fact that the costs are so high, the fact that the access is poor. I mean, I think that's kind of the level of what we - what we really need to understand is when people talk about health care, what are they really saying? And that's what he was telling us about is what they're saying.
Let's go to Miles Parks now. He's at Nevada Democratic Party headquarters, and I understand that he's got some new information for us. Miles.
PARKS: Yeah. Hey there.
MARTIN: What do you have? What do you know?
PARKS: So basically the Democratic Party is saying that there's nothing to see here in terms of - we're at about 3:30 p.m. West Coast time. The caucuses were about 3 1/2 hours ago. I know we in the media who want to see these results are kind of on them right now to get those results. But what the Democratic Party is saying is we didn't make a time estimate for this reason. You know, it's still early in the day. They said we just want to have results by the end of the day, and we want those results to be accurate more than anything else.
What they're saying basically is this wait, this couple-hour wait that we're seeing right now is not out of the ordinary. They had three sets of data to get from each one of these 2,000 precincts across the state. That's just a lot of data to take in and then to verify. What they're saying is what we're seeing is just not out of the ordinary.
MARTIN: OK, and - well, just - but, Miles, while we have you, you know, I know there's a lot of debate about whether Iowa and New Hampshire should go first. But what you did see there is people who were interested in the process, who are very - take it very seriously. I mean, they take their sort of first-in-the-nation status very seriously. They're very engaged. They go to a lot of meetings. They put a lot of time into it.
I'm just curious about what the atmosphere is like in Nevada, which is obviously a very different place. I mean, there are lots of distances to cover. It's not compact. There are rural voters. There are urban voters. But just what's the - what's the - what's the vibe there? Do people seem excited about this campaign? Are they interested in getting involved? Tell me more. Tell me what you're seeing.
MONTANARO: In terms of, like, the caucus process here, I think people are feeling really passionate and excited about this year because they integrated this early caucusing function as a way to kind of deflect from those accessibility issues that Iowa gets kind of banged for every single election cycle. They allowed for four days of early voting. And we saw almost 75,000 people participate, which almost matched the total number of caucus-goers in 2016. So we've seen really high participation. But what some of those anti-caucus folks are saying is, that early voting seemed a lot like a primary. These were people showing up, filling out paper ballots and turning them in. And then they were getting counted. Why don't you just go to a full primary if everyone's so excited about this system?
MARTIN: Well, can't argue with that. All right, Miles Parks, thanks so much. I think - OK, Susan.
DAVIS: Joining us now is Adam Green. He's the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, and he has been a Warren - the group has been a Warren supporter for a long time. Hey, Adam. How are you doing?
ADAM GREEN (CO-FOUNDER, PROGRESSIVE CHANGE CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE): Good. How are you?
DAVIS: So how are you interpreting what we're seeing on the ground in Nevada, which doesn't look like Elizabeth Warren is having a particularly strong night just yet?
GREEN: Well, actually some of the initial results show a lot of strength coming at the debate. One thing that was fascinating about the debate was that it happened right after early vote was over. So we actually have a very nice apples-to-apples comparison between, how did she do before the debate, and how did she do after the debate? And early precincts coming in show huge jumps. You know, one precinct, she had 10% pre-debate and 29% post-debate. Another one was 10% pre-debate and 30% post-debate and on and on. So that's the real number that we're looking at because what that signifies is her momentum going into Super Tuesday, where, you know, about a third of the delegates overall will be counted.
DAVIS: Did that debate give her strength because she was able to raise some money to continue to compete in this race going into Super Tuesday?
GREEN: Yes, although, I think the biggest strength it gave her was people seeing what they loved about Elizabeth Warren. You know, she has seven years of moments as a strong fighter, challenging power, naming villains and being effective, actually holding corporations accountable. And really Michael Bloomberg on stage was the walking personification of her core argument that billionaires and corporations are trying to buy our government, buy our elections and rig the rules for themselves.
He was also pretty much a proxy for Donald Trump as an ego-maniacal billionaire who, you know, has a record that's not that great on race, not that great on gender and not that great on corporate issues. And what she did was show America what it would look like for her to be on the debate stage with Donald Trump. And I think that's what people are responding to.
MONTANARO: Hey, Adam. It's Domenico Montanaro at NPR. How are you doing, man?
GREEN: Hey, hey. Good to see you. Good to talk to you.
MONTANARO: Good to hear you. Good to talk to you, too. Let me ask you a question about Bloomberg 'cause I think it's interesting you bringing up how he sort of personifies the villain that she sees as the problem with the entire case that she makes actually. But I kind of wonder Bernie Sanders has said that he would not take any money or support from Bloomberg in a general election. If Warren were to get the nomination, do you think she should take Bloomberg's support?
GREEN: I actually don't know what that means for Bernie Sanders to not take Bloomberg's support. I mean, will he take a $2,800 check from Bloomberg? I guess not. Will Bloomberg decide on his own to do hundreds of millions of dollars in TV ads? I doubt he would ask Bernie Sanders for permission.
MONTANARO: Right, but do you think she should - do you think she should wave him off from creating a superPAC, for example, in boosting her?
GREEN: Honestly, I don't really have deep thoughts on that except that my guess is that Democrats will have a mentality that we must beat Donald Trump at all costs. But what she will not do is have a message of her campaign that is remotely close to Bloomberg's because hers is fundamentally about challenging power, challenging billionaires, challenging big corporations, holding them accountable, whereas Mike Bloomberg on many issues kind of looks and feels like a Republican.
So if he wants to do anti-Trump ads, you know, that's one thing. But, you know, the look and feel of their campaigns would be entirely different.
MARTIN: Adam, this is Michel Martin. It's good to talk with you.
MARTIN: Is it accurate that you advocated in January for the DNC to change the qualifying rules to allow for Mayor Bloomberg into the debate? That's accurate, isn't it?
GREEN: It was reported in January. What actually happened was on December 15, the day that multiple candidates put in a request to the DNC to allow Cory Booker on the debate stage, I put in a call to the DNC and advocating them reopening the rules, which would have reopened it for him, for Castro, who I believe was still in the race, and for Bloomberg if they had decide to reimagine the rules then. They didn't. They said no. And then in January, I was asked about whether he's getting enough scrutiny and pointed out that, no, he's not good enough scrutiny. And things will look entirely different if he were on the debate stage, which proved true this week.
MARTIN: So I was going to - that's what I was going to ask you was in part the purpose of that to allow Michael - to allow Elizabeth Warren to do what she did, to give him the scrutiny that you feel he hasn't had so far. Was that partly the point?
GREEN: Well, yes, in part. Yes, again, it would have been preferable if there were more candidates on stage for people to see, including Cory Booker and Julian Castro. But at the end of the day, I think it's undeniable that having the walking personification of a corporation and a billionaire trying to buy our democracy ended up being a very good foil for Elizabeth Warren and allowed her to get out her core message, allowed people to see the fight, the grit that she has brought to seven years of advocacy.
DAVIS: Adam, we don't - we don't have much time left, but I did want to ask you a question because now that this focus is in Nevada - has a lot of Latino voters, a lot of black voters. And what we're seeing - and now a caveat - I know it's early. But we're not seeing a particularly strong performance from Warren from Latino and black voters, and that raises the question of, does she have the same fundamental weakness that a candidate like Pete Buttigieg has? If she can't appeal to black and Latino voters, where can she go in this nominating contest?
GREEN: Yeah, so two things. Again, I'm looking at a difference between the early vote and the day-of vote. It'll be interesting to see where those numbers land in particular, as well as, you know, our numbers coming up in South Carolina since her debate performance. But the biggest point I would make is that Elizabeth Warren is really the only candidate that brings under one roof a world view that merges a class, a gender and a racial narrative, which we saw at the She the People forum last year where she was one of the only candidates to get a standing ovation in front of this audience of only women of color. So we hope that South Carolina will be open to her message.
DAVIS: Got it. Adam Green, thank you so much. And you're listening to live Special Coverage of the Nevada Democratic caucuses from NPR News.
This is live Special Coverage of the Nevada Democratic caucuses from NPR News. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is showing an early but strong lead in the caucus results. And joining me in studio to talk about it is NPR's Domenico Montanaro and Danielle Kurtzleben. Hey there.
DAVIS: So, Domenico, how do you interpret what we're seeing in the results so far?
MONTANARO: So far, you know, still only 3% of precincts are reporting. I think that this party is being very careful about the results that it's reporting because they don't want what happened in Iowa to be a repeat.
DAVIS: None of us want that. None of us want that.
MONTANARO: Right. And the Nevada Democratic Party has a pretty good reputation as a very strong party within, you know, the myriad parties in the Democratic Party. So, you know, I think they're going to take their time, especially considering it's, you know, only 4:30, you know, Nevada time. They're probably, you know, perfectly fine just taking their time with this. You know, they've put in place a lot of potential things to help with avoiding what happened in Iowa. They scrapped the app that was made by the same controversial company that had the debacle - the reporting debacle in Iowa. So they're not doing that. They increased the number of people answering phones at call centers so that people who are reporting in those results will be able to do so more cleanly than in Iowa where we had people on our special who went to bed not being able to report the results and reported them live on air to us instead. And we hope that maybe somebody in Iowa listened and wrote it down. But that's what you've got going on in Nevada.
They tried to sort of, you know, make sure they have a lot of quality controls in check and probably want to take their time here. Now, what we're seeing so far, 3% in, you have Bernie Sanders with 55% of the vote. Joe Biden at 18%, Elizabeth Warren at 10, Pete Buttigieg nine. Those numbers are going to change completely. You know, the entrance polls don't show those - quite those margins, but you do have Bernie Sanders with a fairly significant - with fairly significant leads in with a bunch of different groups beyond his core base.
MARTIN: Do we know whether the entrance poll results, the early results that we see, are they sort of broadly reflective of the state or do they tend to come from sort of one place or another?
MONTANARO: Well, most of the vote in Nevada comes from one county. Two-thirds of the vote comes from Clark County where Las Vegas is, and Henderson, which is a suburb of Las Vegas, is now the second-largest city in Nevada population-wise. But it's very important to recognize and understand that while we're going to see raw vote, that's not what this game is about. This game is about delegates. And there are going to be a lot of outsize, you know, delegate allocations in some of the more rural areas. So whatever that statewide - whatever that statewide vote is is not necessarily going to reflect how the delegates go. A big number to pay attention to, especially with the splintered field, is you have to get at least 15% statewide and in each congressional district - and there are four of those - to be able to get any delegates at all.
DAVIS: OK. Well this is live Special Coverage of the Nevada caucuses from NPR News. We'll be right back.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) DAVIS: This is live Special Coverage of the Nevada Democratic caucuses. I'm Susan Davis.
MARTIN: And I'm Michel Martin. Early results continue to show Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in the lead, but results are still trickling in.
DAVIS: So for more on what's happening on the ground, we're joined by Scott Rodd. He's a state government reporter for CapRadio. Hey, Scott.
SCOTT RODD (CAPRADIO): Hey, how are you?
DAVIS: I'm good. So tell us, where in Nevada are you?
RODD: So we're based in Reno right now. We just wrapped up actually at the caucus site at the University of Nevada, Reno.
DAVIS: And what was the scene there? How many people showed up? Were people excited? Who won?
RODD: There was a lot of excitement there. I would say it was a good maybe 100 to 150 people who showed up, maybe a bit more than that. And by and large, supporters there were for Sanders. He walked away, from my count, with 49 delegates. Warren came away with five and Klobuchar came away with three. And that wasn't all too surprising on a college campus - a lot of young voters out there. And Sanders has a very strong support among young voters. So that's really who came out on top at UNR.
DAVIS: What was the reason behind the Sanders support? I mean, is it just because they like his ideas? Was there anything specific that young voters tell you as for why they're drawn to, you know, one of the oldest candidates in the race?
RODD: A big one was health care. Many of the voters that I spoke to said that health care was a top issue for them. They liked the idea of "Medicare for All." They like not only that, the idea, but the fact that Bernie was the first to - or among the candidates out there, he was first to really champion this idea. He like - they like that it's a bit radical and that it would shake up the current system. You know, supporters for Sanders that I spoke to said that the status quo for health care in the country is just not doing it for them. I thought it was particularly interesting that these are pretty young kids. A lot of them are likely still on their, you know, parents' health care, but they still were very much attuned to this issue and knew that, you know, even though they may be on their parents' health care, you know, a couple years down the road, this is still going to be - this is going to be something that's going to be impacting them.
DAVIS: Scott, you've been reporting a lot on turnout. How has the early caucusing affected turnout this year?
RODD: Well, there was an expectation from a number of voters I spoke to that the lines were going to be long the - at today's caucus, that there was going to be, you know, a long wait. But it went really smoothly in terms of checking people in and getting caucusing underway. Some folks that I spoke to in the last couple of days who had done early caucusing, they had actually waited in line for a couple hours. And so I think there may have had almost a reverse effect where people were thinking, you know, I'll go in early, I'll try to get it done quickly, and they may have ended up having to wait longer than some other folks who voted on caucus day.
DAVIS: Oh, wow. Well, that's Scott Rodd of state - the state government reporter for CapRadio. Scott, thanks so much for your time.
RODD: Thank you.
MARTIN: Now we're going to go to Donna West, who is the Democratic Party chair for Clark County. Madam Chair, thank you so much for joining us.
DONNA WEST (CHAIR, CLARK COUNTY DEMOCRATIC PARTY): My pleasure.
MARTIN: And just to let people know, in 2016, nearly three-quarters of all votes in Nevada came from Clark County. It's home to Las Vegas, where I understand six caucuses were held on the strip, some within the casinos. So how's it going? What are you hearing, Madam Chair? How are things going at the precincts you're overseeing? Any problems, any issues?
WEST: You know, we had 10 precincts at Chaparral High School today. We had great volunteers. Wait time was about 25 minutes for people checking in. We had everyone checked in. By 12:15, started our caucuses on time. The feedback from voters was just phenomenally positive, thanking us for the process, had a good time, which is what we want people to do when they come caucus.
MARTIN: Talk a little bit more, if you would, about how - what people are telling you? I mean, what are they telling you that's important to them? Just give me just some sense of what you're hearing from people as you go around doing your job.
WEST: Well, there's a lot of enthusiasm around the candidates that we have. Obviously, everyone's very concerned about being able to remove Donald Trump from office and not give him a second term. People are concerned about keeping their health care. The changes that have already been made to diminish the ACA have a lot of people concerned. In our state, people are very worried about education, and they're not seeing that the Trump administration is doing anything to help the states improve the quality of their education. They're concerned about minimum wage and, specifically with education, teacher pay. So I think that's driving the enthusiasm. You know, it rained here in Las Vegas today. In fact, that's pouring right now. People don't come out all the time when it rains here because our roads get very slick from the hot conditions that bakes our oil into the streets. It makes it slippy. And so a lot of people stay home. They didn't stay home today. And they certainly turned out with enthusiasm, some waiting at some locations for hours in order to vote. And I think that bodes well for the Democratic Party. We've also registered a high number of new Democrats, people who were nonpartisan voters or Republican voters who are switching parties to participate in the Democratic caucus.
MARTIN: Now, how many do you think?
WEST: Well, at the site, the early voting site that I worked on Tuesday, we had five Republicans switching parties and more than a dozen independents that came over to register as Democrats and participate in our caucus. They found a candidate that spoke to them that they wanted to vote for, which I think bodes well for us.
MARTIN: And you're sure that they're actually voting because they like the candidate, not because they want to cause ruckus.
WEST: I don't think anybody was there to cause ruckus. I talked to most of them because I was working the voter registration table most of the day. It's one of my favorite things to do. And, you know, I asked, so why are you here? And some of them said, you know, I voted for Trump in '16. I can't stand what he's doing to the country. He embarrasses us. That's not my party anymore. My party's left me behind. There's a candidate that I like that I want to vote for on the Democratic ticket. And I know I'm not voting for Trump.
MARTIN: And can I just ask you to just weigh in on this question that we've been hearing a lot about, this whole question of the Medicare for All versus Medicare for All Who Want It. You know, we were under the impression from the early reporting that this was going to be a big dividing line and that this might be dispositive for some voters. But the early results seem to suggest that perhaps not. What's your take on that?
WEST: I think as a party we believe that health care is a human right, and members of the party want everyone to have access to health care. We might disagree on how we get there. But I think there's a good level of trust that if we elect a Democratic president, if we take back the Senate, if we hold the House, we can improve health care so that everybody has the coverage that they need at an affordable rate. And we can work on the details together and work through those issues, where everyone can be happy with the coverage that they have at the price that they are going to be able to get it for.
MARTIN: So you're saying the issue - the argument on that or the policy on that as enunciated by any individual candidate, that's not the make-or-break issue.
WEST: I don't think so. I think at the bottom line, you know, some candidates are saying that we agree on more than we disagree, and we agree that everyone should have health care. And we agree that it is an abomination that the United States is a country in comparison to everyone else who doesn't have health care coverage for all of its citizens. How we get there - I think that's still open for some discussion. And a lot of it's going to rely on how we do in our senatorial elections, as well as taking back the White House.
MARTIN: All right. That is Donna West. She's the Clark County Democratic Party chair. Madam Chair, thanks so much for joining us.
WEST: Thanks so much.
MARTIN: We're going to go now to Megan Jones, who's a Democratic strategist. She worked for the former Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, and she previously advised Senator Kamala Harris' campaign. Megan Jones, thank you so much for joining us as well.
MEGAN JONES (DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST): Good afternoon. How are you?
MARTIN: Good. So just give me your top-line impressions, if you would.
JONES: The top-line impressions are similar to what my friend Donna West just talked about - high enthusiasm in the state of Nevada with record amounts of people registering to vote, as well as first-time caucusgoers. I think about over 50% of caucusgoers were first-time caucusgoers. And I think that points to overall enthusiasm, as Donna West said, in getting the current occupant of the White House out of there.
MARTIN: And you've said that Nevada is a make-or-break situation for the former Vice President Joe Biden. What do you make of how he's doing so far? I mean, he's in the - look - we're just getting very early results.
JONES: Right. It's stil...
MARTIN: I don't want anybody to think that that's dispositive in any way.
MARTIN: But we see him coming in second in what we're seeing so far, but not a very close second. So what do you make of that?
JONES: It's clear from the beginning - and I've said this in other places along the way - that Senator Sanders had a phenomenal ground game in Nevada, and it was going to be pretty hard for anybody to catch up with that. But I do think that, as you said, the early vote totals suggest that the vice president is currently in second. But we have a long ways to go before we have the full set of results. I think his campaign is better able to comment on what that means to them and whether or not it gives them enough ammunition to go into South Carolina with a little bit of buzz that he is in second place, if that holds, obviously.
MARTIN: And I do want to ask you about the former New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg. I mean, is he - what role is he playing in this? I mean, he's not on the ballot in Nevada.
MARTIN: But he will be in Super Tuesday. And you've heard, like, that, you know, he was on the debate stage, and it was almost in a way sort of a referendum on whether he should have been there at all. Just - what's your take on that?
JONES: Well, I think that there is clearly a moderate cluster of candidates that are fighting for their lives come Super Tuesday, and we'll see who has the resources to go into Super Tuesday to compete with Bloomberg. Obviously, he has unlimited funds, and that is a drain for any of these other candidates who are trying to ensure that they have the resources they need to compete for that middle lane.
MARTIN: And this whole question of whether - I just wanted to ask you about what I was talking to Donna West about earlier. I mean, sort of the early reporting was that this whole question about - and you've seen the candidates debate this very hard in numerous debates - about what the right strategy is on health care. And yet we saw the Culinary Workers Union - at least the early results suggest that union members are going for Bernie Sanders, even though a lot of them don't particularly like the specifics of his proposal.
I mean, what does that tell you? Does it tell you that perhaps we've overstated the case when it comes to the policy differences around how to get to health care? What do you make of that?
JONES: I think that's an interesting thing that we should be paying attention to and talking to more voters about. I do think, as my friend Donna West said, that Democrats in general believe that health care should be a right and not a privilege. And, you know, in Nevada, we have some systemic challenges to health care. The culinary union is very lucky - well, not - lucky is the wrong word. They have fought incredibly hard to get the benefits that they have. And I think if you asked the leadership there, they would not want to deny anybody else the right to the kind of health care they have negotiated for their members. So I do think for several culinary members clearly in some of those at-large sites, there were other things on their mind besides the Medicare for All fight that we spend, in my opinion, way too much time on the debate stage talking about when there are so many other issues that are affecting...
(LAUGHTER) MARTIN: Sure. My colleague Danielle Kurtzleben wants to jump in here.
MARTIN: Yes, and you having said that, of course, let me ask you another question about health care, and it's this...
KURTZLEBEN: It's - I know. Looking at the exit polls, though, in 2016 in Nevada - or the entrance polls - 23% of people said health care is their top issue; this year, 43% of people say it's their top issue. What do you - to what do you owe that jump in people saying, yeah, health care is the thing I'm worried about this time?
JONES: 'Cause we talk about it all the time. I mean, that's - it's part of the national...
KURTZLEBEN: You think that's what drives...
JONES: Well, look - I think it's both. I think it's a combination of both. We talk about it in the national news on - the national narrative is around this health care problem. And Trump has done everything he can since he got into office to roll back benefits for working families when it comes to health care. And it is, as many candidates have said, the number - one of the No. 1 reasons for families being in bankruptcy or in financial stress. And so we have to take care of this health care problem in this country.
How we get there, I think people can continue to debate about it. But I do think that the issue in general stems from high costs, low accessibility. And we have to do something about it, and I think that - you know, that voters reflect that opinion. But I don't think that voters care as much about how we get there, to Donna West's point.
MARTIN: And Megan, before we let you go, I understand that your former boss, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, is not - has not endorsed. Do you think he will?
JONES: I don't know. That's a good question. I don't - up until this point, he's been pretty steadfast to say that he has many friends in the race and doesn't want to do anything to alienate any one of them. So I - we'll see if that changes after the race leaves Nevada.
MARTIN: OK. All right. That is Democratic strategist Megan Jones. Megan Jones, thanks so much for talking to us.
DAVIS: And you're listening to live Special Coverage of the Nevada Democratic caucuses from NPR News.
This is live Special Coverage of the Nevada Democratic caucuses from NPR News. And I'm joined right now with Washington correspondent for The Nevada Independent, Humberto Sanchez. Humberto, how are you doing?
HUMBERTO SANCHEZ (JOURNALIST, THE NEVADA INDEPENDENT): Hey. How's it going?
DAVIS: So one thing we know is that the Iowa caucuses did not go smoothly, and Nevada leaders were hoping to learn a lesson from that. How have they tried to approach these caucuses to make sure there is not a repeat of the Iowa situation?
SANCHEZ: Well, they scrapped the app, for one, and then they kept changing their plans as they've gone through it. It's been a very difficult process for the campaigns, according to them, about transparency and about how they're going to do this. But they've come up with this software app - or they don't call it an app; the app that's not an app...
SANCHEZ: ...To try to do this calculation of how you merge the early vote with the in-person vote. And we're going to see whether that will be a repeat or not here in a few hours.
DAVIS: Now, Jon Ralston, the longtime reporter in Nevada, you well - you know him well - has been active on Twitter with the hashtag, we matter, sort of sensitive to the fact that maybe Nevada hasn't been given its due in the top four early primary contest caucuses. How do you feel about that? Does Nevada feel like it needs to take a more prominent role considering the fact that it does look more like the Democratic Party as a whole?
SANCHEZ: I think a strong case could be made for that. I think, especially with - I know Nevada is trying to take advantage of the fact that Iowa was such a debacle. And Dina Titus, for example, says, you know, we should be first; we want to be first and - because of the diversity in the state. And so we'll see how that goes going forward, and we'll also see how they can handle tonight.
DAVIS: One of those voices is former Senate Leader Harry Reid, who suggested that maybe Nevada should be the first caucus. Do you think that - is that just talk? I mean, is there seriously an effort inside the party to try and push Nevada to the front of the line?
SANCHEZ: I think we'll see how that develops. I think that there are a lot of people, Harry Reid in particular, who wants to see, and it's because of Harry Reid that we have the caucus so early as it is now. But I think that there could be a push, especially if this turns out to be success tonight for Nevada.
DAVIS: Nevada, obviously, also a place that has Latino voters, voters we haven't really had a chance to hear from yet in the race. And it looks like - and again, caveat; it's still early in the evening - but that there has been a swell of support towards Bernie Sanders. Step back for a minute talk about what the significance of a Nevada win is for the Sanders campaign.
SANCHEZ: It would be huge. I mean, he's going into South Carolina. This is the first state where there is a diverse electorate, and he picks up a lot of Latino votes. He picks up African American votes, Asian-Pacific Islander votes. Going into South Carolina, he gets the momentum, and that really sets him up for Super Tuesday, which is the big enchilada, for lack of a better term. And Super Tuesday is really going to be the deciding factor here. And it already looks like he could amass an insurmountable lead against the other candidates here. So it's going to be big if he wins Nevada.
DAVIS: And a telling sign that Bernie Sanders is already in Texas this evening, another state with a lot of Latino voters. That is Washington correspondent for The Nevada Independent, Humberto Sanchez. Humberto, thank you so much.
SANCHEZ: Thanks, Sue.
DAVIS: And you are listening to live Special Coverage of the Nevada Democratic caucuses from NPR News.
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