What You Need To Know About Nevada's Democratic Caucuses On Saturday, Democrats in Nevada will choose between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton in what has been dubbed the "First in the West" caucuses. Clinton once had a large lead, but not anymore.

What You Need To Know About Nevada's Democratic Caucuses

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And while much attention has been focused on Republicans competing in the South Carolina primary, in Nevada Saturday, Democrats will compete in the state's first-in-the-West caucuses.

NPR's Tamara Keith joined us from Las Vegas, where she's following the race. Welcome.


MONTAGNE: And we know from Iowa that the rules for caucuses can be complicated. How about Nevada?

KEITH: The doors will open at 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning, and there are caucus sites in firehouses and schools. But there are also several in places you might not expect - like casinos on the Las Vegas Strip so that shift workers can go to caucus. And then it is really like Iowa. Caucus goers will move to different sides of the room to indicate which candidate they support. And the other thing that's like Iowa is that there's same-day voter registration. What that means is that an independent or a Republican or somebody who simply isn't registered to vote can show up on caucus day, register as a Democrat and caucus that very same day, which makes it incredibly hard to predict how this is all going to turn out.

MONTAGNE: OK. So hard to predict but how do things look on the ground there for you?

KEITH: Well, Nevada was supposed to be Hillary Clinton country. It was supposed to be the start of her firewall to stop Vermont senator Bernie Sanders because the state's diverse voters were supposed to give her a strong edge. But now, listen to what the campaign is saying. Here's what senior strategist Joel Benenson from the Clinton campaign said when we asked about him about expectations in the state.

JOEL BENENSON: I think Nevada could be close, I sure do. I mean, I think any of these states could be close. We'll see, probably - I mean, it's coming up pretty quickly.

KEITH: This is not a campaign with swagger - that's exuding confidence. And meanwhile, Vermont senator Bernie Sanders does have some confidence (laughter). He was on the Nevada PBS "Ralston Live."


BERNIE SANDERS: We were way downhill. Who thought that we can win Nevada? I think we've got - if there's a decent turnout here, I think we got a real shot.

MONTAGNE: OK. Bernie Sanders versus Hillary Clinton - what about the makeup in Nevada? You suggested it earlier - it was pretty diverse.

KEITH: Absolutely - and especially the Democratic electorate - and especially in big cities - Las Vegas, Henderson, to a lesser extent, Reno. There's a large Latino population here, but there's also a strong African-American and Asian population. You could say that Nevada is what America will look like in the future. And people like Senator Harry Reid of Nevada really pushed to get this state early in the process because of that diversity because it, he says, is a better reflection of the nation than Iowa or New Hampshire, which are of overwhelmingly white.

MONTAGNE: And unions have a bigger role to play in Nevada for Democrats.

KEITH: Absolutely - and one union, in particular, which is the Culinary Union, which represents casino workers. In 2008, they endorsed President Obama late in the game and really drove turnout to caucuses. Well, this time, they're staying neutral. They aren't endorsing anyone, and it's not clear what that will mean for turnout in this caucus.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Tamara Keith covering the Democratic side of the presidential race and joining us from Las Vegas. Thanks very much.

KEITH: You're welcome.


MONTAGNE: High pay for corporate bosses has been a big theme on the campaign trail this year.

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