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Nevada and South Carolina results: Rubio officially takes second place; Trump and Clinton win

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Donald Trump wins the South Carolina GOP primary, and Marco Rubio ekes out a second-place finish over Ted Cruz. Hillary Clinton wins the Nevada Democratic caucuses, giving her a burst of momentum.

  • Donald Trump wins the South Carolina primary, securing his hold on the lead for the Republican nomination
  • Hillary Clinton fends off a strong challenge from Bernie Sanders to win the Nevada caucuses
  • Jeb Bush, the front-runner very early on in the race, ends his campaign after a poor showing in South Carolina
  • Get results breakdowns from Nevada and from South Carolina

It’s official: Rubio is No. 2

With all of the precincts counted, Donald Trump won with 32.5% of the vote in South Carolina.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio had 22.5% of the vote and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was right behind him with 22.3%. About 1,000 votes separate the two senators.

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Some South Carolina context

Newt Gingrich won South Carolina four years ago with 40.4% — 243,153 votes. Right behind him was Mitt Romney with 167,279.

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Fun with numbers

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Ben Carson says he’s sticking with his campaign

(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson may be finishing last in South Carolina’s Republican primary, but he says he’s not dropping out of the race.

“We remain undaunted,” he said in a statement. “We’ve barely finished the first inning, and there’s a lot of game left.”

Carson added, “As more Americans have their say, they will see the true strength of our movement.”

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Ted Cruz: Washington is in ‘full terror’ over my rise

Ted Cruz claimed his campaign is sending shudders through the GOP establishment as he offers what he said is the only Republican alternative who can beat Donald Trump.

“That screaming you hear now from across the Potomac is the Washington cartel in full terror as the conservative grass roots is rising up,” Cruz, the Texas senator, told supporters in Columbia.

But Cruz’s bluster was tempered by his showing on the evening. In a primary where nearly three in four voters identified as evangelical, a group Cruz doggedly courted in the Palmetto State, he lost their support to Trump.

Cruz insisted that his tight race for the second place spot with Marco Rubio here in South Carolina defied expectations, just as he did in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Supporters here at an election night party at the state fairgrounds, many wearing “Cruz 45" jerseys, interrupted his speech with chants of “Cruz!”

“South Carolina has given us another remarkable win,” he said. “Conservatives continue to unite behind our campaign.”

But while Cruz bested Trump in one national poll, he more typically follows the billionaire.

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Harry Reid will be endorsing soon

Now that his state has had its say, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada won’t be remaining neutral in the battle between Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders.

“I’m going to make an endorsement, I’m not going to do it now, I’ll make it when I get back to Washington ... so fairly soon,” he said at a news conference Saturday in Las Vegas.

Reporters asked Reid about a New York Times story that suggested his conversations with leaders from Culinary Local 226, the state’s most powerful union with more than 55,000 members, might have drawn more people to the caucuses, helping Clinton.

But Reid said all he was doing was due diligence.

“I did everything I could to turn out the vote,” Reid said.

Clinton’s caucus victory came thanks in part to union households, which backed her 54%-43%, according to the preliminary exit polls. About 3 in 10 voters were members of a union household, the polls also found.

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Trump coloring book spotted in South Carolina

If you ever wanted to know what Donald Trump looked like as Superman, a wizard, a founding father, or Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, look no further than the Trump coloring book.

The book’s been out for a few months, but according to the Washington Post’s Jose DelReal, the presidential candidate’s campaign passed it out on Saturday in South Carolina.

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Bush’s farewell speech: ‘Thank you for the opportunity to run for the greatest office on the face of the Earth’

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Jeb Bush’s White House dreams sputter to a halt in South Carolina

He launched his campaign in the warmth of a Florida summer, hailed as the candidate who melded a new, multicultural Republican appeal, a family history of winning and the most formidable fundraising machine his party had ever built.

Eight long, humiliating months later, in the South Carolina winter, John Ellis Bush gave up, making him the most prominent casualty of an unruly presidential contest and marking a stunning public repudiation of a family that defined GOP success for decades during two turns in the White House.

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Jeb Bush supporter: ‘Marco won the lane’

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Marco Rubio leans on Reagan’s legacy and says race is down to three men

Marco Rubio invoked the legacy of Ronald Reagan after Saturday’s primary in South Carolina to position himself as the Republican candidate who can best unite the GOP for a new era.

Rubio, in a tight battle for second place with fellow Sen. Ted Cruz, congratulated Donald Trump’s win in the primary and praised Jeb Bush, who suspended his campaign shortly after polls closed.

“After tonight, this becomes a three-person race, and I will win the nomination,” Rubio, the Florida senator, told supporters at his warehouse party in Columbia.

“Now, the children of the Reagan revolution are ready to assume the mantle of leadership.”

Rubio’s campaign, backed by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, the daughter of immigrants from India, and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only black Republican in the Senate, represents a new movement in the party, he said.

The country, he said, “is now ready for a new generation of conservatives.”

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Bush aide: ‘Trump blocked out the sun’

An aide to Jeb Bush said the former Florida governor decided to drop out of the race Saturday after a poor showing in South Carolina to allow Republicans to consolidate behind someone who can defeat Donald Trump.

This person said Bush’s effort failed because “Trump blocked out the sun for seven months.”

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The mood in the room at Bush party: Disappointment, but not surprise

The crowd at Jeb Bush’s election night party cried out “No!” and “We love you, Jeb!” as he announced he was ending his presidential campaign Saturday night after a poor finish in the South Carolina primary.

But many were not surprised.

“I’m disappointed. I was hoping for a third-place finish by Mr. Bush. But I think it was probably time,” said Seth Darlington, 18. “A lot of his supporters have come to the conclusion it was probably the best time.”

From the moment the doors opened to Bush’s election night party at the Hilton hotel, the mood was grim. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich held his victory party here four years ago, and Bush’s party space was a fraction of the size. There were no televisions broadcasting returns. The crowd included more volunteers and friends from out of state than South Carolinian voters. They hugged as Bush announced he was dropping out.

Trey Robinson, 32, said that it was time for establishment Republicans to consolidate around a candidate, and that he planned to support Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who was in a tight race for second place in South Carolina.

“Here’s the thing – I think everyone wants everybody to get behind one conservative candidate,” said the Columbia resident, who works for a chemical manufacturer.

Gil Rawhock, a retiree from Camden, S.C., repeated the adage he had told Bush himself when the former governor was signing an autograph for him earlier.

“Don’t forget that great American philosopher Yogi Bera – it ain’t over till it’s over. It must be over,” the 81-year-old said.

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Donald Trump says he will ‘go back to war tomorrow morning’ after winning South Carolina

Donald Trump thanked supporters Saturday night after his victory in the South Carolina primary, telling them he would “go back to war tomorrow morning” against his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination.

“There’s nothing easy about running for president, I can tell you,” Trump told the cheering crowd in Spartanburg, S.C. “It’s tough. It’s nasty. It’s mean. It’s vicious. It’s beautiful. When you win, it’s beautiful, and we are going to start winning for our country.”

Flanked by family members, Trump also mocked pundits for saying his GOP opponents’ votes combined could defeat him if some of them would drop out.

“These geniuses,” Trump said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “They don’t understand that as people drop out, I’m going to get a lot of those votes also. You don’t just add them together.”

Trump also took a swipe at South Carolina’s Republican governor, Nikki Haley, whose endorsement of his rival Marco Rubio appeared to give a major boost to the senator from Florida after his poor showing in the New Hampshire primary.

Gesturing toward one of his top South Carolina supporters, Henry McMaster, Trump said: “The lieutenant governor of South Carolina, I will take him over the governor any time. Because we won.”

Trump paid quick tributes to Rubio and another rival, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, drawing a wave of groans that Trump tried to calm.

“We go back to war tomorrow morning,” he assured the crowd.

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Donald Trump turns the spotlight over to his wife during victory speech

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The end of Jeb Bush’s run has loomed on the campaign for a while

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Bush quits presidential race

Jeb Bush, the son and brother of presidents who once seemed a formidable front-runner for his party’s nomination, quit the race Saturday night after a disappointing finish in South Carolina’s primary.

“I’m proud of the campaign we’ve run,” Bush told supporters. “But the people of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have spoken.”

“So tonight, I am suspending my campaign,” he said, his voice briefly catching as some supporters shouted “no.”

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Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are close in the results and in results parties

Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are not only battling for the second-place spot behind Donald Trump, their election night parties are almost as uncomfortably close in the same neighborhood.

Team Cruz is set up at the state fairgrounds in Columbia, while Marco Rubio’s crew is holding at a hip warehouse space right around the corner. They’re minutes apart.

Rubio’s supporters, many nursing Yuengling lagers in cans, erupted in cheers at the narrow separation in the early results.

Cruz was flying back to the Palmetto State after attending Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s funeral in Washington.

One thing on voters’ minds? How to beat Trump.

“If he can polarize the whole party, think what he can do for the country?” worried Ken Grayburn of Columbia, who handles human resources for an auto parts manufacturer.

Rubio, he says, can unite the party.

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Marco Rubio is big winner among voters who want November victory

Marco Rubio has repeatedly insisted that he’s the best candidate to unite the Republican Party and win in November. Judging by exit polls, that message has taken root among the Florida senator’s supporters.

Among South Carolina Republican voters who prioritize a candidate’s ability to win in the general election, 49% said they were backing Rubio.

However, it wasn’t a priority for most – only 15% of voters said that it was.

More voters said they wanted a candidate who shared their values (37%, a category Cruz won) or could bring change to the country (31%, with Trump holding a wide margin).

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Results? What results?

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Jeb Bush says he’s quitting his campaign

Jeb Bush began the race as the front-runner, thanks to his name recognition and the huge amounts of money he was able to raise, but was overtaken in polls by Donald Trump last summer and became an also-ran almost as quickly as he rose to the top.

“I’m proud of the campaign that we’ve run to unify our country,” he said Saturday. "... Tonight I am suspending my campaign.”

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South Carolina Republicans made different choices depending on when they decided

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Scenes from Clinton’s victory party

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Clinton win surpasses her 2008 Nevada numbers

With 84% of precincts counted, Hillary Clinton has earned 5,408 delegates so far in the Nevada Democratic caucuses.

In 2008, Clinton had 5,407 delegates once all the caucus totals were in. That day, Barack Obama netted 4,805 delegates. John Edwards, who was still in the race, had 398 delegates, and 39 delegates went for someone else.

So far, Sen. Bernie Sanders has 4,901.

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When South Carolina voters want an outsider, Trump blows away the competition

Donald Trump, the projected winner of the South Carolina primary, has benefited enormously from his persona as a political outsider, according to exit polls of voters in the state.

Among Republican primary voters who said they wanted to back a candidate “outside the establishment,” Trump had 60% support. The runner-up in the category was Ted Cruz, the senator from Texas, with 15%.

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida had 36% of support from voters who said they valued experience. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich – two candidates who have built their campaigns on highlighting their government resumes – each had 11% in that category.

It appears that Republican primary voters in South Carolina are more conservative than in years past.

Thirty-nine percent said in Republican primary exit polls that they were “very conservative,” up 5 points from 2008, according to NBC News. Forty-three percent said they were “somewhat conservative,” up 9 points. Meanwhile, only 17% of GOP primary voters described themselves as “moderates,” down from 24%.

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Donald Trump wins South Carolina primary

With 0.5% of the vote tallied, Donald Trump is declared the winner.

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Bernie Sanders supporters vow to fight on

Bernie Sanders backers said they were disappointed by his loss in the Nevada caucuses Saturday, but not daunted.

“I am prepared to fight,” said Winnie Wong, cofounder of People for Bernie, a group of supporters. “It’s a long road until June. We have 47 more states to go.”

Wong said she believes Sanders is still gaining support as voters learn more about his ideas.

“The momentum started nine months ago and it continues to scale today,” Wong said. “Bernie has come a long way.”

The key moving forward is getting young backers to translate their enthusiasm into actual votes, said Kaelyn Pollick-Kirkpatrick, 20, an Arizona college student who drove to Nevada to volunteer for Sanders.

“There’s a lot of armchair activism,” she said. “People think it’s enough if they just support him on social media. We need to move that to a physical presence.”

She and another friend from Arizona were at the Henderson rally where Sanders gave his concession speech Saturday.

The amphitheater was largely empty -- organizers were obviously hoping for a more celebratory atmosphere. The crowd booed when television video of Hillary Clinton’s victory speech, and particularly loudly when she sounded a Sanders-esque message about the need to reduce the influence of money in politics.

Sanders’ own address, in which he vowed to keep fighting and predicted big wins on Super Tuesday on March 1, appeared to rouse them. As he walked off stage, the crowd chanted his name.

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Sanders pushes forward after Nevada loss

Even as he conceded defeat to Hillary Clinton in the Nevada caucuses, Bernie Sanders said his presidential campaign was poised to pull off “one of the great political upsets in the history of the United States” at the Democratic convention in July.

“The wind is at our backs,” Sanders, the Vermont senator, said in a speech to supporters. “We have the momentum.”

Sanders hammered at familiar themes, including income inequality and the outsized influence of political donors.

“We have a corrupt campaign finance system that is undermining American democracy,” he said. In a shot at Clinton’s campaign, Sanders said he’s up against a political organization with heavy support “from Wall Street and wealthy special interests.”

Sanders said he was heading next for South Carolina, where the state’s Democrats will hold their primary on Feb. 27, and was ready to compete in several states the following week on March 1.

“I believe that on Super Tuesday, we have an excellent chance to win many of those states,” he said.

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Trump voter on politicians: ‘Take them all out and shoot them’

South Carolina Republican voter Howard Winslow said he chose Donald Trump at the polls today because he was vocalizing all the frustrations people have with Washington, D.C.

“I’m fed up with politicians, I don’t care what stripe – Democrat, Republican, independent – they’re all the same. They’ll say anything to get elected and once they get to Washington, they get corrupted by big money and they forget the promises they made,” the 74-year-old cab driver and Vietnam War veteran said.

“My solution is a little radical: take them all out and shoot them.”

Winslow, who has lived in Columbia for a half-century, described himself as “two steps to the right of Attila the Hun” and said the nation’s founders did not want a permanent political class.

“The forefathers of this country did not intend for serving in Congress to be a lifetime job. It was supposed to be one term or maybe two and then go home and farm your crops and be a lawyer or whatever it was,” he said.

Now, he said, politicians in Washington have been there for decades and “have just encased themselves in huge amounts of money, and from my standpoint, my taxpayer dollars are being wasted on things I don’t agree with and don’t want to pay for.”

He said funding for welfare should be shifted to the care of veterans.

“That generates a lot of my anger and that’s why Trump is doing as well as he is, because he verbalizes exactly what we feel here in South Carolina,” Winslow said.

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Boos for Clinton at Sanders HQ

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Reactions at a caucus after Hillary declared winner

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All that enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders is nowhere to be found at caucus results party

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Festive mood at Clinton headquarters

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Sanders concedes to Clinton in Nevada

Bernie Sanders issued a statement recognizing Hillary Clinton’s victory in Nevada.

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Clinton fundraising blast embraces Sanders’ ideals; Sanders asks his supporters to prepare to fight

In a fundraising email that just landed in inboxes, Hillary Clinton sounds an unusual note: “The choice in this primary might be tough for some, because the truth is, Sen. Sanders and I agree on a basic premise: Wall Street, big banks, drug companies and the like all have too much power and influence in our country.”

The email goes on to say it’s not enough to “want” to take those groups on and that “no one can win these fights alone.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders sent his own note with a very different tone, arguing that “there’s a path to victory for our political revolution.”

It also says that once all the Nevada results are tallied, the Sanders team will have “roughly the same number of delegates as Hillary Clinton, maybe down just a few.”

“I want to be completely clear with you about what this result means: Nevada was supposed to be a state ‘tailor made’ for the Clinton campaign, and a place she once led by almost 40 points,” the email read.

He then writes that supporters must “be prepared” for the best shot from super PACs, “millionaires and billionaires who are funding our opponent ... because it’s coming.”

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Chaotic scenes from a morning caucus

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Hillary Clinton after Nevada victory: Americans are ‘hungry for real solutions’

Hillary Clinton thanked supporters Saturday for her victory in the Nevada caucuses earlier in the day, saying, “Some may have doubted us, but we never doubted each other.”

Clinton, who edged out rival Bernie Sanders with backing from women and minorities, singled out “hotel and casino workers who never wavered” and students who are struggling with college debt.

“This is your campaign,” she said in her speech. “It is a campaign to break down every barrier that holds you back.”

In a nod to voters who are concerned that Clinton doesn’t represent a strong enough break with the past, she insisted she’s the candidate who can achieve progressive changes, not Sanders.

“Americans have a right to be angry,” she said. “But we’re also hungry for real solutions.”

Clinton closed out her speech by saying she’s heading to Texas to continue campaigning Saturday night.

“The fight goes on,” she said. “The future that we want is within our grasp.”

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South Carolina exit poll shows high evangelical turnout

Nearly three-fourths of South Carolina Republican voters in today’s primary are evangelical or born-again, an even higher percentage than in Iowa, according to early exit poll results.

The exit poll, conducted by Edison Research for the Associated Press and the major television networks, also showed 45% of voters made up their minds only in the past week.

Lisa Mascaro wrote an in-depth story on evangelical voters this week.

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Clinton wins Nevada caucuses

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Hillary Clinton thanks Nevada voters after she’s declared winner of caucuses

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Entrance poll: Clinton victory built on women and minorities

Hillary Clinton’s win over Sen. Bernie Sanders in Nevada comes from a significant edge among women and minority voters, an entrance poll of caucus voters shows.

Clinton beat Sanders by a double-digit margin among women, while Sanders had a similarly large lead among men, according to the entrance survey, which is conducted by Edison Research for the Associated Press and the major television networks.

The good news for Clinton is that women made up well over half the turnout, the entrance poll found.

The two candidates split white voters, with Sanders taking younger whites and Clinton winning their elders. But Clinton kept a significant lead among non-white voters in Nevada, the entrance poll indicated.

That edge among non-white voters likely included a big margin among African American voters, although the number of black voters in the entrance poll so far has been too small to know for sure.

Among Latinos, Sanders appears to have had a lead, although the margin of error for the Latino sample and the preliminary nature of the numbers makes that uncertain for now.

As we’ve noted earlier today, Nevada Democrats have split between experience and empathy. Clinton won among those voters who said their top priority was a candidate with the best experience to be president and the best chance of winning in November. Sanders led among those who said their top priority was a candidate who cares about people like them and is honest and trustworthy.

The entrance poll also showed that voters in the Democratic caucuses this year were considerably more liberal than those in 2008, the last contested caucus. Sanders won those who want the next president to take a more liberal path than President Obama has.

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Hillary Clinton wins Nevada caucuses in tight Democratic race

Hillary Clinton won Nevada’s Democratic caucuses Saturday, fending off a strong challenge from a surging Bernie Sanders.

Although narrow, Clinton’s victory over the senator from Vermont should offer her a burst of momentum heading into the next contest in the presidential race, the South Carolina primary on Feb. 27.

More important, the win could ease some of the concern within the party establishment after Sanders nearly tied the former secretary of State in Iowa and crushed her in the New Hampshire primary.

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Caucus being decided by deck of cards

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Las Vegas casino workers side with Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders

Casino workers at the Caesars Palace caucus strongly favored Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Latino immigrants were the bulk of Clinton’s support in the hotel ballroom. Clinton won 190 votes to Sanders’ 81. Early results coming in from across Nevada were showing a tight race, so Clinton’s support on the Las Vegas Strip could be offset elsewhere.

“I think Hillary’s going to be better than anyone else,” said Maria Ventura, 61, an immigrant from Mexico who works as a gift-shop cashier at Caesars Palace. “She’s going to try and do something on immigration.”

The vote of casino workers gave Clinton a symbolic display of support among Latinos. As they gathered for the caucus, many of them carried “Women for H” signs and chanted “Si se puede!”

Sanders supporters, in turn, chanted “Feel the Bern!” But many of his loudest backers — “We are the mighty, mighty nurses,” they yelled — were California volunteers ineligible to vote in Nevada.

Although outnumbered, Sanders’ Nevada supporters were enthusiastic.

“I can’t vote for Martin Luther King, but I can vote for the man who marched with him,” said Brittany Carter, 30, a Bellagio Café hostess who cast her ballot for Sanders.

“He’s not a candidate that’s bought by the corporations,” she said. “He’s bought by the people.”

The casino workers gathered in a Caesars ballroom far from the casino floor. Paul Smith, the precinct chair, directed Clinton’s supporters to one side of the room and Sanders’ to the other. At that point, it was clear Clinton would prevail.

“She’s going to do things for women — on immigration especially,” said Maria Orea, 51, a cleaning worker at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino.

Jimmy Leon, 52, a master cook at Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill at Caesars Palace, admired both Clinton and Sanders, but opted in the end for Clinton.

“He has good ideas, but Hillary has more experience,” he said. “It’s very close.”

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In North Las Vegas, a bilingual vote

At a mostly Latino caucus site in North Las Vegas, the vote was carried out partly in Spanish.

“Quien quiere votar por Hillary?” asked one precinct captain at Rancho High School. Who wants to vote for Hillary? “Quien quiere Bernie?” Who wants Bernie?

It was a reflection of the state’s growing diversity. The campaigns of both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders put considerable effort into wooing the expanding Latino electorate in the Las Vegas area, aware that those votes could make the difference in who wins Saturday.

In recent weeks, Sanders has appeared to make inroads with Latinos, especially among younger voters.

Marco Garcia, an industrial engineer, said he was originally a Clinton backer, but said his daughter persuaded him to caucus for Sanders.

“My daughter changed my mind,” he said.

But Clinton also had strong support at Rancho High, among Latinos and also African Americans.

Preliminary results suggested Clinton edged out Sanders, winning slightly more delegates.

Afterward, several Clinton supporters walked through the school’s hallways chanting, “Hillary, Hillary.”

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Ted Cruz impresses one voter as Supreme Court battles loom

For Bill King, it was the Ted Cruz rally with Glenn Beck some days ago that sealed the deal.

“He hit all the notes I wanted to hear,” King, a research scientist at the Savannah River nuclear site, said about the Texas senator.

As a Christian conservative, King said his first choice was Ben Carson. But like other voters interviewed Saturday, he didn’t think Carson would pull through the crowded field.

Then it was process of elimination.

Donald Trump was “scary.”

Jeb Bush is a “good man” whose “time has passed.”

And he never had a chance to see Marco Rubio.

But he was impressed by Cruz, who spoke during the rally here about his record arguing cases before the Supreme Court important to conservative Christians.

The sudden Supreme Court vacancy with the death of Justice Antonin Scalia also raised the importance of judicial nominations.

On Saturday, Cruz got King’s vote.

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Even on voting day, some in South Carolina still deciding

South Carolina voters are famously late deciders. And several people interviewed Saturday said they were still making up their minds as they made their way to the polls.

“We need change,” said Kevin Holley, who was still undecided at midday between Donald Trump and Marco Rubio. He was on his way to vote after making a stop on the main street of this historic town.

Trump was “a little spoiled brat” to him, said Holley, a former welder who now is a technician working on robots that do the welding. But, he said, “I still like Trump.”

Rubio is appealing, but “he flip flops too much.”

Time is ticking on a decision.

“Probably Trump.”

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Entrance poll: Empathy versus experience divides Nevada Democrats

Nevada Democrats are far more racially and ethnically diverse than those who voted in Iowa and New Hampshire, but they are choosing between Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders on very familiar grounds.

About 1 in 4 Democratic caucus-goers said the most important factor in choosing a nominee is someone with the “right experience” to be president. They’re voting overwhelmingly for Clinton, according to the preliminary results from the entrance poll. Among caucus-goers, 1 in 5 say they want a candidate who can win in November; Clinton wins big with that group too.

Sanders wins among the nearly 3 in 10 who say the most important thing is a nominee who “cares about people like me.” He also wins overwhelmingly among the 1 in 4 voters who say the most important factor is a candidate who is “honest and trustworthy.”

Experience and electability versus empathy and trust: That, in a nut shell, has been the Democratic contest so far this year, and it’s continuing in Nevada in what appears to be a tight race, according to the early entrance poll results.

Another big division in the race involves how much the next president should follow President Obama’s policies. About half of Nevada caucus-goers said they want to continue Obama’s policies, and Clinton was winning that group handily.

But about 4 in 10 voters said they want the country to move to a more liberal path than Obama’s. Sanders was winning among them, about 4-1.

That jibes with another finding of the exit poll: This electorate is much more liberal than the Democrats who voted in Nevada’s caucuses the last time they were contested, in 2008.

How closely to stick to Obama’s policies has been a point of contention in the Democratic debates, with Clinton tying herself closely to Obama and Sanders offering some criticisms of the president.

That issue almost certainly will be prominent in the South Carolina primary coming up next Saturday, where African American voters, who overwhelmingly back Obama, make up a majority of the likely electorate.

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Voters in South Carolina show the divide among Republicans

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The lines for Clinton and Sanders are drawn in rural Nevada

Inside the Manse Elementary School gym here Saturday during one Democratic caucus, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton supporters divided themselves at lunch tables — a majority of them situated on the Clinton side.

“I stood here and watched her husband talk in this gym earlier this month, and I’m back to cast my ballot for Hillary,” said Phyllis Rosiner, 67, alluding to a visit by former President Bill Clinton.

Rosiner, who is retired, added, “Everyone knows she’s about results, not all talk.”

At a table on the Sanders side, Benjamin Burn, 34, did not agree.

“We might not have the numbers here, but look statewide. ... I’m confident in my candidate,” he said of Sanders, the Vermont senator. “This really is going to be a revolution.”

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Detailed results from South Carolina and Nevada

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At one Las Vegas locale, caucus voters heed the call for cooperation

Things might have been raucous at Democratic caucus locations on the Strip and elsewhere, but in a small middle school in Las Vegas, voters were heeding the words on the wall in Room 201: “Enter with Respect.”

Bernie Sanders’ organizers, many clad in purple shirts, swarmed the area. Hillary Clinton supporters, many in blue garb highlighting the National Education Assn., worked nearby.

Neither side sharing turf at the K.O. Knudson school seemed terribly comfortable predicting the outcome.

Gonzalo Lujan, 39, was voting for the first time. Born in Mexico, he became a citizen in January, 15 years after he arrived in Las Vegas. And on Saturday, that precious first vote was going to Bernie Sanders.

“What he has going for him mainly was his willingness to confront Wall Street and economic interests for the sake of more rather than the few,” he said, opening his arms to signal what he sees as Sanders’ broader embrace. “He seems more honest about it.”

He said he was concerned about some of Clinton’s positions and what he saw as angling her posture in order to attract voters.

“Otherwise, I very much respect her,” he said. “She’s very strong.”

And, he added, “I will definitely vote for her if she was the Democratic nominee.”

He’s not so sure that Sanders could win in November, however: “I think so. I’m hesitating a little bit.”

A few feet away, a few minutes later, Kenia Leon, a 34-year-old psychologist, was pledging her support to Clinton.

“I think what’s going on with women needs to be addressed, and she’s the one to do it,” she said.

Leon was a Nevada delegate for Barack Obama in 2008, siding with him over Clinton. But she was not similarly enticed by Clinton’s opponent this year.

Clinton, she said, “learned from her mistakes‎" in that campaign.

“She’s matured, honestly,” she said. “It was a learning experience for her.”

She was hopeful that Clinton would win, but figured the day’s voting would be “very, very close.”

“We’re tired of seeing the same things over and over,” she said of voters. And that benefits Sanders, the fresh face of this campaign.

Still, she had an idea that would unite Clinton’s experience and Sanders’ passion.

“They’d be great running mates,” she said.

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Nevada Democrats shift leftward

Roughly 7 in 10 Democrats showing up for the Nevada caucuses call themselves liberal — confirming the party’s shift to the left that was seen in New Hampshire and Iowa, according to a poll of voters.

In 2008, the last time Nevada had a contested Democratic caucus, about 45% of voters called themselves liberals, according to the poll of voters arriving at caucus sites conducted by Edison Research for the Associated Press and the major television networks.

The racial and ethnic makeup of the electorate was roughly similar to the one in 2008: Whites make up 64% of today’s voters, according to the preliminary entrance poll results, Latinos 17% and blacks 12%. Those numbers could shift somewhat as the entrance poll is refined during the course of the day.

The preliminary results, as released by NBC News, indicate a close race overall, although those numbers aren’t particularly reliable at this stage for several reasons:

Caucus voters can change their minds once they arrive. Moreover, entrance poll results have to be adjusted during the day to match the actual turnout at caucus sites. And the early results of the poll are based on a small sample, so they can easily fluctuate.

As a result, the early entrance poll figures are far more useful for examining the makeup of the electorate than for projecting the results.

As in other states, Clinton leads among older voters, while Sanders leads among younger ones. Nearly 1 in 3 voters this year are 65 and older — up from 23% in 2008, the entrance poll found.

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Long line at Caesars caucus

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In North Las Vegas, caucus gets off to a raucous start

The caucus got off to a raucous start at one of the state’s most diverse voting sites, with supporters of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders trading barbs in English and Spanish.

Rancho High School, in North Las Vegas, is home to a large Latino student body. It’s where President Obama came in 2014 to announce that he was expending deportation protection to millions of immigrants in the U.S. illegally. And it’s where Hillary Clinton kicked off her Nevada campaign, sitting down with young immigrant activists for a roundtable meeting in the school’s library.

Clinton and Sanders have been battling for Latino votes here and in other Latino communities across Nevada, eager to make inroads with an electorate that could make up 20% of the vote.

After months of fierce campaigning, tensions boiled over Saturday, as volunteers for both camps led voters in competing chants.

As Sanders backers shouted, “Feel the Bern!” Clinton staffer Natalie Montelongo led her team in a counter-chant.

“When I say ‘Madame,’ you say, ‘President!’ ” shouted Montelongo, who has been working for the campaign in Nevada since July.

“I haven’t slept,” Montelongo said. “I have too much adrenaline.”

The caucus pitted immigrants against immigrants.

"¡Vota por el cambio!” shouted Lilia Aguirre, 76, a cook at Caesars Palace. “Vote for change!”

An immigrant from Mexico, Aguirre said she believes Clinton has made promises to fix the nation’s immigration system only to win Latino votes.

A few feet away, two Latinas who support Clinton yelled back. Both reside in the country without permission and cannot vote. But they have been volunteering for Clinton for months because they believe she is their best shot at immigration reform.

“It’s a historic day,” said Lupe Arreola. “I need to be here.”

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Snap, snap, snapping away

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Undecided in rural Nevada

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Hillary Clinton at Harrah’s casino: ‘I need your help this morning’

Hillary Clinton dropped by the employee cafeteria at Harrah’s casino this morning to get out the vote before the caucuses.

“Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!” the room cheered as she entered, according to reporters traveling with the Democratic hopeful.

As people took selfies with Clinton, one man snapping a lot of photos didn’t seem to realize he had a big “Bernie” sticker attached to the outside of the phone pointing at Clinton.

“I need your help this morning, in the showroom. 11 a.m.,” she repeated as she walked around, referring to the site of the caucus meeting. “I need your help. The showroom.”

A lot of people in the room were wearing red Clinton campaign T-shirts. One woman told her, “I came from San Diego!”

Asked how she was feeling about the caucus, Clinton said, “Great. It’s a great day.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders had worked the same cafeteria crowd about 20 minutes before Clinton arrived.

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Jeb Bush refuses to say whether he is considering dropping out

As rumors swirl that Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign is collapsing, he refused to say whether he would remain in the race if he placed poorly in Saturday’s primary in South Carolina.

“I’m going to work as hard as I can till 7 p.m. I’m not going to feed the speculation of people who have no clue about my campaign,” Bush told reporters after greeting voters at a polling place at an elementary school in this tony island hamlet.

Bush had told reporters earlier Saturday that he intended to campaign in Nevada for the Republican caucuses there Tuesday, insisting that he didn’t think anything could change his plans.

Bush, accompanied by his son Jeb Jr., Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and other supporters, skittered around this state that political observers have said is key to his chances of reviving his campaign. But polls show Bush, the former Florida governor, in fourth place, and recent reports in Politico cited donors concerned about his legacy if he continues his campaign and campaign staffers sending out resumes.

Bush brushed off the reports.

“My campaign is doing great,” he said.

But even among supporters accompanying him, there was an air of sadness.

“I hope [voters] wake up,” said former Rep. Henry Brown, who represented South Carolina in the House of Representatives for a decade. “When he made his announcement, I think people thought he was the heir apparent. But it all faded away.”

Julie Thornton jumped out of her car to take a picture with Bush when she saw him at her polling place. But she said she never once considered voting for him.

“I feel like a hypocrite,” she said after Bush’s car drove off. “It was exciting seeing Jeb but [I’m voting for] Marco Rubio. I think he is more conservative and probably a bigger fighter than Jeb. I do think Jeb is a good human being, but I’m not sure would be able to fight and do what he’s sent up there to do.”

The 55-year-old pharmaceutical sales rep said that until recently she had been deciding between Rubio and Sen. Ted Cruz but ultimately settled on the former because she believes he is more electable and less polarizing.

12:47 p.m.: This post was updated with Bush saying his plan was to go to Nevada after the South Carolina primary.

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As Caesars Palace voting nears, some casino workers pass up Nevada’s Democratic caucuses

At Caesars Palace, Democrats set up a couple hundred chairs in a ballroom for a presidential caucus of workers at casinos on the Strip.

But some of those working amid the jingle-jangle of slot machines on the Caesars casino floor were not interested.

“We’re moving gaming tables – that’s the first priority,” said Mark Collins, 55, a Caesars laborer who likes Democrat Bernie Sanders and Republican Donald Trump but declined to participate in the caucus.

Nearby, Chad Glover, 49, was cleaning the glass of the display cases in a shop where he sells cigars. He, too, was going to take a pass. He doesn’t like any candidate from either major party, and he thinks super delegates negate the votes of ordinary citizens.

“The regular guy doesn’t really have much influence,” he said.

Dozens of nurses were passing out fliers for Sanders in the Caesars ballroom corridors. One of them, Deborah Marcus, 67, came from San Rafael, in northern California.

“Bernie’s on a roll,” she said. “We could really help here.”

In a ballroom nearby, crews were setting up a stage for Hillary and Bill Clinton, who planned to speak to supporters after the caucus closes.

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Brian Sherrett rarely votes, but he’s caucusing today for Bernie Sanders

Brian Sherrett rarely votes, but he is caucusing for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Saturday.

“I didn’t caucus in 2008,” said Sherrett, 70, a retired computer engineer. “I didn’t even know what a caucus was.”

Sherrett, who is serving as a precinct captain for Sanders at Rancho High School in North Las Vegas, said Sanders has inspired him like no other candidate before.

The contrast between Sanders and Hillary Clinton is stark, he said.

“I’m here because Bernie is for the middle class, and Hillary is the elite,” he said. “She’s filthy rich. She says she’s going to do all those things for the middle class, but when push comes to shove she’s going to bow down to all that election money she got through Citizens United.”

“We don’t want to support the elite because they’re not for us,” Sherrett said. “Bernie talks about a political revolution. It’s time. It has to be time.”

“I am so disenfranchised with the political system,” he said. “People say, ‘Why should I care? Nothing’s going to change.’ But we have to try.”

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Clinton volunteer warns Sanders backers: ‘Don’t get burned by the Bern’

A dozen Hillary Clinton volunteers stood outside Rancho High School in North Las Vegas early Saturday, trying to sway Democratic caucus-goers with last-minute appeals.

Shelia Jackson, a former president of the San Diego Unified School District who is canvassing for Clinton in Nevada, said she had a message for those enticed by Bernie Sanders’ calls for a political revolution.

“Don’t get burned by the Bern,” she said.

“Just because someone says it, doesn’t make it true,” Jackson said of Sanders’ promises to erase income inequality and make college tuition free.

“It’s all in your actions,” she said. “What have you been doing in those 25 years in Congress? What did you do to help women? What did you do to help minorities? Don’t come to me and say you’re going to stand up for my communities when you haven’t at all,” she said.

“I’m not going to get burned,” she said.

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Scenes from the polling station, in a historic South Carolina town

Hunter Pendarvis knows he is fighting a losing battle, but he still voted for Marco Rubio as the Republican candidate he believes is the best alternative to Donald Trump.

The 30-year-old real estate agent, who moved back home after living in New York City, might be on to something.

Several other voters streaming into the polling station at the American Legion hall, in a town that is the birthplace of Strom Thurmond, the longtime late senator, were casting ballots for Trump.

“Enough bull,” said Wayne Wates, a retired butcher on his way in to vote for Trump. “He’s going to change things, I hope.”

“I voted for Trump too,” said Joe Cato, a truck driver, as the two men exchanged a knowing nod.

The sound of gunfire at a nearby range could be heard outside the hall. Just down the road, the central plaza in the town where the high school is named for Thurmond, bustled with activity.

Pendarvis hopes Rubio can pick up some momentum after Saturday’s primary and the race shifts into other Southern states.

But he knows Rubio faces a tough race in South Carolina against the celebrity front-runner, Trump.

“It’s going to be a long slog.”

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Bernie Sanders gains ground among Latinos, poll finds

As Nevada Democrats begin to hold their caucuses — the first primary-season contest in a state with a significant Latino population — a new survey finds Sen. Bernie Sanders gaining ground among that crucial voting bloc.

Overall, the weekly tracking poll conducted by NBC News and SurveyMonkey found the Democratic race stabilizing, with Clinton holding the support of about half of Democratic voters nationwide and Sanders taking about 40%. That Clinton lead of about 10 points has remained fairly steady since the two battled to a near-tie in the Iowa caucuses three weeks ago.

Among Latinos, however, Sanders’ support has risen sharply since Iowa, the survey found. What had been a 20-point edge for Clinton in December and January shrunk to just three percentage points last week, the poll found.

Because the tracking survey is a nationwide poll, its results don’t directly forecast what may happen in Nevada today. Voters there have been exposed to intensive campaigning by both sides and may react differently than those nationally.

But the results validate the claim that Sanders and his aides have made that the Vermont senator can gain ground among minority voters as he becomes better known.

By contrast, the poll shows no gains for Sanders among black voters. Clinton continued to lead Sanders among African American Democrats by 52 points last week, 70% to 18%, the poll found. Black voters will be key to the next contest in the Democratic campaign, in South Carolina on Feb. 27.

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Pahrump prepares

In Pahrump, Nev., a 60-mile drive west from Las Vegas across desert dotted by Joshua trees, Democrats prepared to caucus on Saturday.

At Manse Elementary, a single-level stucco building Castaneda was the first to arrive at 9 a.m. to help set up the presidential caucus site. Former President Bill Clinton visited the school earlier this month to campaign for his wife, Hillary Clinton.

Castaneda, 57, a custodian at the school, said he was still undecided.

“There’s things I like about both,” he said of Clinton and her rival, Bernie Sanders, as he stood outside his parked 1992 Toyota, which had a large dreamcatcher dangling from the rearview mirror.

“I want to hear what others have to say about the candidates. I want to be convinced who I support will be best for Democrats,” he said.

Robert Hansen, 48, a postal worker in Pahrump, was carrying folding tables and signs that noted same-day registration is allowed. He’s supporting Sanders.

“I’m over the rich staying and getting more rich,” he said.

Castaneda and Hansen are among a relatively small group of Democrats set to caucus Saturday in this part of Nevada, which is a bastion for conservatism.

In nearly a dozen interviews Saturday morning at the Pahrump Nugget, a casino here where locals enjoy bacon and eggs at small cafe inside, most said they were Republican and would not be voting in Saturday’s caucuses.

Barb Schubauer, 52, a waitress at the cafe is a Democrat, but did not plan to caucus Saturday.

“It’s in the middle of the day - I didn’t know that,” she said. “I definitely don’t have time.”

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Donald Trump stirs pot again

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Stop that snickering!

Jokes aside, like that one about rolling the dice on a presidential candidate, there are practical reasons that a number of Nevada’s caucuses will be held Saturday along the Las Vegas Strip.

There are many day-shift workers, like Gonzalo Segura, 58, who would have to miss work to caucus, costing them a day’s pay.

Instead, Segura planned to use a break from waiting tables at the Marriott to head to nearby Caesar’s Palace, to vote for Hillary Clinton. “She has the experience,” Segura said.

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Rubio calls Trump’s pig blood story ‘bizarre’ and offensive

Sen. Marco Rubio called Donald Trump’s misleading tale of an American general who executed Muslim terrorists with bullets dipped in pig’s blood “bizarre” and offensive Saturday.

“I’m sure people are offended. We hope people are offended by that. That’s not what the United States is about,” Rubio said on NBC News’ “Weekend Today” show.

Trump made the remarks Friday night at a rally in North Charleston, S.C., while telling a graphic story about Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing, the World War I-era general who allegedly stopped an insurgency by ordering his troops to kill Muslim terrorists with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood.

Pershing “took 50 bullets and he dipped them in pigs’ blood, and he had his men load their rifles and he lined up 50 people, and they shot 49 of those people, and the 50th person, he said, ‘You go back to your people and you tell them what happened,’” Trump told thousands of supporters at the North Charleston convention center. “And for 25 years, there wasn’t a problem.”

Muslims abstain from pork as part of their religious practices.

The veracity of the story, which allegedly took place in the Philippines, is uncertain. Myth-debunking website Snopes.com deems it a legend and said it has found no evidence of it in Pershing’s biographies. It also notes that the tale was circulated online after the Sept. 11 attacks and that there are several variations, including that Pershing had the people he slaughtered buried with the carcasses of pigs.

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We’re not in Des Moines anymore

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Bernie Sanders protest photo from the 1960s surfaces

(Chicago Tribune archives)

This Chicago Tribune photo from 1963 shows a young Bernie Sanders being arrested at a protest. Sanders was a University of Chicago student at the time.

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Go on the ground in Nevada and South Carolina with The Times

Times reporters will bring you live updates all day from caucus sites in Nevada and polling places in South Carolina as results roll in from Saturday’s two high-stakes contests.

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Trump, turnout and 4 other things to watch for Saturday

Voters in Nevada and South Carolina — two very different states — will make their choices Saturday in this year’s unpredictable presidential nominating season, with Democrats in Nevada appearing surprisingly split between Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, a race that has narrowed in its final days, and Republicans in South Carolina struggling for consensus in an unwieldy field dominated by Donald Trump.

What to watch for Saturday:

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The Great Recession still looms over campaigns in Nevada

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The Great Recession couldn’t stop the Cosmopolitan, only slow it down. After years of financial delays, the casino resort’s ocean-blue windows shimmer in the desert sunlight high above the Las Vegas Strip, a symbol of this city’s faith that the money will always come rolling back.

But a gap remains between the nation’s rebounding economy and the persistent insecurity still felt by many Americans as they consider who should replace President Obama in the White House. Few, if any, states have suffered more from the recession’s lingering effects than Nevada, which holds its Democratic caucuses on Saturday and its Republican counterpart Tuesday.

“A lot of people you might talk to on the street will probably tell you we’re still in a recession,” said Stephen Miller, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. “We’re still not quite back to where we were.”

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Sanders already looking to March contests

Team Sanders is working to organize voters feeling the Bern for Super Tuesday.

Supporters in the Los Angeles area received the note this week. California’s primary, once held on Super Tuesday, this year is on June 7. Super Tuesday is March 1.

The campaign presumably sent similar messages to the national email list asking people to do “the work that wins elections: Volunteering to talk to voters and spread Bernie’s message.”

“To grow our movement to the scale we need to win in March, we asked some of our top volunteers to host ‘barnstorm’ organizing rallies on Saturday,” the email read. “There’s never been a more important time to get to work for Bernie.”

The events, collected on geotagged sign-up pages on the campaign website, are billed as both Nevada caucus watch parties and training with national operatives.

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So, what’s a caucus again?

Need a refresher on how caucuses work ahead of Nevada’s big showdown? Here’s our quick explainer using gummy bears.

Is Nevada the same? Yes, except many of the largest caucus meetings are held in casinos on and off the Las Vegas Strip.

Democrats gather at noon and will split into groups.

Eight years ago, the Silver State was debuting its role among the early nominating contests, and things were a little rowdy and unorganized.

Here’s some video I took from inside a caucus in 2008.

And here’s when things got a little chaotic between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama supporters.

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‘We walk with Hillary’

If Hillary Clinton wins a sizable portion of the Latino vote in Saturday’s Nevada caucuses, it might have something to do with a certain member of Congress from Los Angeles.

Meet Rep. Xavier Becerra as he campaigns for Clinton in two languages, a volunteer job that might just lead to his own second act.

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Closing arguments

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Podcast: Preparing for ‘morning after’ conversations

Start your caucus and primary Saturday off with Essential Politics: The Podcast.

In this episode, Cathy Decker and I talk about the high stakes for the Democratic caucuses in Nevada and Republican primary in South Carolina.

Nevada is a “big test” for both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, we note. South Carolina is even more intense for the Republicans.

“It’s been a fierce fight ... your typical South Carolina event,” Decker said.

And this could be the end of the line for the candidates who finish at the back of the pack: “For some of these campaigns, there will be the morning-after conversations with their backers and their donors.”

If you like the podcast, make sure to sign up below for our free newsletter, in your inbox every day.

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Welcome to caucus day in Nevada! Here’s 3 things to know

Jon Ralston is Nevada’s preeminent political analyst, a columnist for the Reno Gazette-Journal, publisher of the Ralston Reports newsletter and host of a statewide public television program broadcast five nights a week.

With Democrats voting Saturday in Nevada’s first-in-the-West caucuses, and Republicans taking their turn Tuesday, Ralston offered three things everyone should know about the state and its politics:

  1. The gaming industry is king

    “That’s why there are six caucus sites Saturday inside casinos. … The Culinary Union is the biggest union in the state, 55,000 to 60,000 workers. They’re a political force, and to get off work, they have to take a break from dealing blackjack or cleaning guest rooms to go and caucus.”

  2. Nevada is a newbie when it comes to caucusing

    “This is only the third year that Nevada’s had an early-state caucus and only the second that there’s been a competitive Democratic contest. So the turnout is going to be much lower than it is in Iowa and we don’t have the institutional ability to predict what’s going to happen. … With same-day registration, it becomes even more unpredictable, so polling is nonexistent or wrong.”

  3. The GOP caucuses could be a mess

    “The state Republican Party has been dysfunctional for several [election] cycles. They botched the caucus the last time and took three days to count 33,000 votes, about 8% turnout. This year they have it scheduled on a Tuesday night for a four-hour window with different starting times and they have now changed the rules so it’s a hybrid where people can just walk in — they don’t have to talk to their neighbors and debate whether Ted Cruz is better than Marco Rubio — they can just walk in, cast a ballot and leave. The chances of the party doing something that screws this up are about 96%.”
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