With early results showing Sen. Bernie Sanders leading — he had predicted victory on Friday — he was already forecasting wins in states set to hold primaries next month that might be competitive in a general election.
“If we win here in Texas, Trump is finished,” Mr. Sanders told a crowd in El Paso on Saturday afternoon.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar speaks with reporters at one of her campaign offices on Nevada Caucus day.patrick t. fallon/Reuters
Andrew Yang, who dropped out earlier this month, says the Nevada results could provide some new opportunities and prompt some tough questions.
“If Joe puts up a strong second place result, a lot of the donors that have been on the fence could come his way,” Mr. Yang said on CNN, referring to former Vice President Joe Biden. He also said he was concerned about Sen. Amy Klobuchar if she finishes fifth. “I’m friends with all these candidates so it’s tough to talk like this,” he said.
“If you finish fifth in Nevada …and you’re Amy Klobuchar and not expected to do well in South Carolina, then it starts prompting some really difficult conversations.”
Mr. Yang, who campaigned on giving every American a universal basic income of $1,000 a month, dropped his Democratic presidential bid after a weak showing in the New Hampshire primary.
Caucus voters at Liberty High School in Henderson.patrick t. fallon/Reuters
There were no reported tech issues at Liberty High School, the largest caucus site in Nevada with 26 precincts, site lead Jennifer Webb-Cook said.
Ms. Cook, a 66-year-old retired public school teacher, said the process went “really smooth compared to other times I’ve caucused. This time went the best.”
By 2 p.m. local time, or 5 p.m. EST, most caucusgoers filtered out of the high school campus.
Mike Egbert, a precinct captain for former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg said he didn’t notice any problems with the caucus process. In his precinct
It was Mr. Egbert’s first caucus after moving to Nevada from California about four years ago.
Hamid Ali Sayadi, a retiree, said he supported Sen. Bernie Sanders because he is “genuine” and “wants to flip this capitalistic culture.”
For Mr. Sayadi, the top reason he supports Mr. Sanders is his healthcare plan. Mr. Sayadi said he pays about $250 a month for diabetes medicine. “There should be healthcare for all after all these years,” he said.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren waves to caucus goers at Coronado High School.David Becker/Getty Images
Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s group at a caucus site in Las Vegas clawed back into the race after being unviable after the first alignment. The group was one person short but wooed someone over.
A Warren supporter’s pitch was that Ms. Warren was an effective fighter for the middle class, and cited her conceptualizing and helping start the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
It is likely now that Ms. Warren will collect some county delegates from this caucus site.
Caucus goers at Liberty High School in HendersonEmily Glazer/The Wall Street Journal
As the Nevada caucus unfolded at Liberty High School in Henderson, voters made their pitch to others whose candidate wasn’t viable after the first alignment — meaning they would either have to pick off supporters of other nonviable candidates to become viable, or join a new group.
At the 1328 precinct in Clark County, which had more early voters than in-person caucus day participants, Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren were the only viable candidates after the first alignment. Other prominent candidates, including former vice president Joe Biden and businessman Tom Steyer were not.
Then, the pitches began.
Biden precinct captain Kate Ponzio, who drove from Glendale, Calif., to volunteer in Nevada, touted his ability to win swing states and his experience that enables him to “jump in on day one. He has familiarity and relationships with all foreign leaders.” But nearly all of Mr. Biden’s in-person supporters switched to Mr. Buttigieg’s camp.
A supporter of Mr. Buttigieg, local teacher Stephanie Devine, said he is “more moderate, he can pull more independents and more Republicans who don’t like Trump.”
Local public school teacher Nichole Beer, who supports Mr. Sanders, said she decided to support Mr. Sanders a few weeks ago after realizing there is room for her as an “older lady.” Some supporters of Mr. Steyer switched to that camp.
Warren supporter Jennifer Sparks said she wasn’t sure of her preference until this morning. “I thought Warren was too polarizing, too liberal, too radical,” she said. One thing that swayed her: Ms. Warren’s debate performance. “After all the tumult and chaos of the past four years, to have a woman and show that we can actually beat…Trump, it changes in a meaningful way.”
Some supporters for Mr. Steyer moved to that group.
In that precinct, Mr. Sanders received the most support with seven delegates and Mr. Buttigieg and Ms. Warren each received four delegates, the site leader said.
As results start to come in, here are some scenes from the caucuses.
Local residents wait to cast their votes during the Nevada caucuses to nominate a Democratic presidential candidate at the caucus polling station inside the Coronado High School in Las Vegas.mark ralston/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
A campaign volunteer for Tom Steyer directs people get to their assigned location to cast their votes in Las Vegas.christian monterrosa/Shutterstock
Sen. Bernie Sanders came into the day as the favorite, based on the few opinion polls ahead of the caucuses. Entrance polls released by CNN appear to back the notion that he could have a strong night, with big first-choice numbers among liberal voters, as well as whites and Hispanics, although the readings are complicated by early voting that took place before today. If he does win, expect the focus to turn to the rest of the field, which could be tightly bunched, fighting it out for second: former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden, businessman Tom Steyer and Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
Poll averages headed into today had Mr. Sanders in front, with around 30% support, with Mr. Buttigieg, Mr. Biden and Ms. Warren around 15%, and Ms. Klobuchar and Mr. Steyer around 10%.
A precinct in Henderson, Nev., begins the caucus process at Liberty High School.Emily Glazer/WSJ
As noon local time passed, there was no one left on line at Liberty High School in Henderson, which is hosting the largest caucus in the state with 26 precincts.
Caucusgoers for different precincts gathered at cafeteria lunch tables and in school classrooms scattered across the high school.
Forty voters in Clark County precinct 1328, which has 15 delegates, sat and stood around tables in the high school’s cafeteria.
Before the votes began, a temporary precinct chair read through materials given by the Nevada State Democratic Party and asked for non-required donations to the party, which pays to run the caucuses. They also officially elected the precinct chair, who then said that they would combine results with 69 early voters from the same precinct.
Volunteers with technology skills have been dispatched to at least some caucus sites, wearing blue shirts that include the phrase: “Ask me questions about tech.”
A tech volunteer wearing one of the blue shirts at a site in Henderson, declined to be interviewed. He set up shop at a table in the check-in area and had some caucus-goers swinging by.
The state party previously had been saying that it was recruiting volunteers with tech skills. The Democratic National Committee also has said it has brought in technical support staff.
Other Democratic activists in the tech space have also pitched in. DigiDems, a group that promotes tech talent for Democratic campaigns, has team members on the ground to provide tech support for caucus operations including being on hand at precinct locations, a representative said. Alumni of the group have also been volunteering, the representative said.
The state party has encouraged caucus volunteers to use an iPad-based tool to help with counting and calculating the delegate allocation, and has provided the volunteers with detailed step-by-step instructions, including how to turn on the iPads and to hold them horizontally. The volunteers are also required to fill out paper records, and can choose to use only paper if they prefer or have any issues with the iPads.
Emily Glazer, Alexa Corse
Vice President Joe Biden takes a selfie with a supporter.Shannon Stapleton/Reuters
Joe Biden arrived at Cheyenne High School in North Las Vegas as about 100 caucus-goers stood in line in a cafeteria waiting to check in.
Mr. Biden told reporters the Nevada caucuses were a “complicated process,” but he was hopeful “it works out.” He spent about 30 minutes greeting caucus-goers and shaking hands with voters.
He said he felt good about his positioning in the campaign as it moves from Nevada into South Carolina and a large map of Super Tuesday states on March 3. “I think we’re coming into an area that it makes a big difference to me, not only going into South Carolina, but Super Tuesday. And I’ve had a lot of support. So I’m feeling good.”
He told reporters he has raised more than $1 million since Wednesday’s debate.
The former Vice President poses for photographs and shook hands with voters, joined by Rep. Steven Horsford, a Nevada Democrat who represents the Congressional district.
The high school serves as a large caucus site, with 14 precincts, in a diverse section of metropolitan Las Vegas.
Mr. Biden greeted Tina Edwards, a retired retail worker, who exclaimed, “I love you! God bless you!” when she saw Mr. Biden.
“He’s got to be my president,” Ms. Edwards said. “I don’t want to have to go through another four years of drinking. I can’t do that again.”
Mr. Biden, who had weak showings in the first two contests, spent most of the past week in Nevada in hopes of finding a boost ahead of South Carolina. His team has viewed that southern state as his firewall, but that is at risk following a drop in support among black voters.
Meanwhile, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was already looking toward March 3.
He arrived in El Paso, Texas, around 2 p.m. EST for the first of three rallies in the state this weekend. Texas is one of 14 states and one territory set to vote March 3. He held his final Nevada event Friday night in Las Vegas.
Eliza Collins, Ken Thomas
Bellagio hotel workers wait to cast their votes during the Nevada caucuses.frederic j. brown/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
With its fountain show and famous Dale Chihuly glass art display, the Bellagio hotel and casino is always a colorful spot on the Las Vegas Strip.
Midday Saturday, it was buzzing with even more activity than usual, as one of seven casinos on the famed Strip hosting voting in the Nevada caucuses. In a ballroom past the slot machines and blackjack tables, dozens of casino workers and others filed in to prepare to record their preferences for who they think the Democratic presidential nominee should be.
One person trying to greet them was billionaire Tom Steyer, who stood in a hallway outside the ballroom looking to win over a few last votes and talk to reporters.
In a brief interview, Mr. Steyer predicted a “second or third” finish for himself in Nevada, the third nominating contest and first in a diverse state.”We’re hoping for a big turnout,” he said. “We want a lot of people to show up. There’s been very heavy early voting as I’m sure you know, and as far as we’re concerned the more people show up the better.”
State party officials have said that more than 75,000 people cast early votes for today’s caucuses, an option offered for the first time this year. That compares to a total Democratic caucus vote of about 84,000 four years ago.
Nevada caucus goers arrive to their assigned location to cast their votes in Las Vegas.Christian Monterrosa/EPA/Shutterstock
In hopes of avoiding the sort of embarrassment triggered by a results-reporting debacle following Iowa’s Feb. 3 caucuses, Nevada Democrats held classes this week to train volunteers on a new software tool to calculate totals from midday caucuses in places like schools, community centers and casinos. In 2016, we had a winner shortly after 5 p.m. EST. but this time, results may not come quickly.
“The Nevada Democratic Party’s number one priority is accuracy,” spokeswoman Molly Forgey said in a statement. “While the additional reporting requirements will slow the process from prior caucuses, our plan is to be able to release results on Caucus Day.”
The Nevada State Democratic Party also said it is watching out for the potential spread of false information about the caucus process, and is encouraging anyone who might notice such suspicious activity to report it.
“Our team across the state is working to make sure Nevada Democrats have the correct information they need to participate in the caucus process,” said a post on the state party’s official Twitter account on Saturday. The state party’s post didn’t say that it was responding to any specific issue. Rather, it appeared to be aimed at encouraging general awareness.
Voters stand in registration lines at Liberty High School in Henderson, Nev., on Saturday.Emily Glazer/Wall Street Journal
At Liberty High School in Henderson, Nev., hundreds of caucus-goers lined up to register as doors opened around 10 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST).
The caucus location is the largest in southern Nevada with 26 precincts, said site lead Jennifer Webb-Cook. Outside the check-in space, campaigns held signs and handed out buttons, flyers and t-shirts in support of their candidates.
Ms. Webb-Cook said as long as caucusgoers are on the registration line by noon they can participate in the caucus. She isn’t sure when it will end, but anticipated sometime around 2:30 p.m.
After caucusgoers signed in with half a dozen volunteers, they were directed to different areas across the high school that were divided up by precinct.
Tisha Flis, a precinct captain for former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg said she was a little nervous heading into the caucus. She had two in-person training and three conference calls, with the last one on Thursday.
Last night she “studied up…like college,” she said.
Several precinct captains for former Vice President Joe Biden huddled to strategize as caucusgoers were let in. Some declined to be interviewed.
Jerry Garcia, a volunteer for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, gave out flyers to caucusgoers as they waited to enter the Liberty High School cafeteria. He drove to Nevada from Long Beach, Calif., this week.
Mr. Garcia, a longshoreman and a California elected delegate, said he is just trying to keep people excited for Mr. Sanders on caucus day.
“I’m hoping the same thing in Iowa doesn’t happen here,” he said.
David Becker/Getty Images
After her disappointing finish in New Hampshire, Sen. Elizabeth Warren sounded the alarm to her supporters that she needed to raise “critical funds” to compete in the primary. She wanted to raise $7 million in the 10 days between New Hampshire and Nevada.
She raised $14 million in those 10 days, her campaign said Saturday, just as caucuses sites began to open in Nevada.
Ms. Warren’s burned through cash in January leading up to the Iowa caucuses and her standout debate performance Wednesday has given her finances a much needed boost. Her attacks on former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, which garner widespread attention and aides credit for her fundraising boom, have become a key part of Ms. Warren’s electability pitch on the campaign trail.
“Every time somebody tells you a woman can’t beat Donald Trump, well, I don’t know about a woman, but I’ll tell you: Elizabeth warren can beat Donald Trump,” Ms. warren told a caucus-eve crowd in Las Vegas on Friday night. “And if anyone doubts whether or not I can fight him on a debate stage, I think we have the video from Wednesday.”
The Nevada State Democratic Party said it had processed all the roughly 75,000 early vote ballots, and data entry was completed ahead of its caucuses Saturday.
State party spokeswoman Molly Forgey, in a statement Saturday morning, said the results from four days of early voting will be included in caucus day results today as planned.
“When Nevadans show up to their precinct today to caucus, their neighbors’ early votes will be counted alongside them,” she said. “Massive turnout, particularly on the final day of early voting, has meant lots of time-consuming data entry.”
For Nevada Democrats, the pressure is on to ensure the third Democratic presidential nominating contest this election season goes off without a hitch following Iowa’s debacle earlier this month when a custom app malfunctioned and a coding error delayed reporting of the caucuses’ results. Backup phone system also jammed and paper records were used to tally the results, which are still being finalized.
As of Friday night, campaign aides in Nevada said they had not received early voting names from the last day of early voting on Tuesday.
More than 75,000 people voted early during a four-day window that concluded Tuesday, a large number when compared with total turnout of about 84,000 four years ago. Those votes won’t be shared until they are blended with support registered Saturday at roughly 250 locations hosting 2,097 caucuses.
For Saturday’s caucuses, the party is letting volunteers ditch the tablets and digital Google form calculators and stick to paper if they feel more comfortable doing so.
“Instead of using the app or vendor responsible for what happened in Iowa, we implemented a lean, low-tech, largely paper-based system,” Ms. Forgey said. “We did it the hard way — because we understand just how important it is that we get this right and protect the integrity of Nevadans’ votes.”
Workers check in before caucusing at Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.Frederic J. Brown/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Some caucus volunteers have voiced concerns about the training provided by the state party, although others say they feel prepared.
Such training is seen as critical because the state party finalized a new process for reporting results only in recent weeks, after ditching its initial plan, which had involved using the same vendor that created the faulty Iowa caucus app.
The new process will use paper records and party-purchased iPads, which will come with software designed to help calculate delegate allocation, along with a hotline for phoning in results and other redundancies. More than 3,000 volunteers have been lined up to work more than 250 caucus sites. In the lead-up this week, the state party said it is hosting 80 training sessions, 55 of them online.
Volunteer training continued taking place in Nevada well into Friday afternoon, including at the Nevada State Democratic Party headquarters, three Las Vegas-based volunteers said.
The training went smoothly, they said, and were focused on being prepared for Saturday’s caucus.
“Instead of using the app or vendor responsible for what happened in Iowa, we implemented a lean, low-tech, largely paper-based system,” Nevada State Democratic Party spokeswoman Molly Forgey said Saturday morning. “We did it the hard way — because we understand just how important it is that we get this right and protect the integrity of Nevadans’ votes.”
Still, some aspects felt up to the wire. One of the volunteers said that volunteers were helping to recruit and train more people Friday night “so there are extra hands ready.” The same volunteer said that he had been waiting to get his own assignment, which he got later Friday.
Multiple volunteers said on Friday that they hadn’t gotten to practice ahead of time with the party-purchased iPads, and that caucus day will be their first time using them.
One Las Vegas-area volunteer, Chris Erbe, said he felt nervous even after attending an in-person training on Friday. “It was a complete waste of my time,” said Mr. Erbe. “I actually felt better before I went to the training than after.”
Mr. Erbe said his concerns include whether the many older volunteers will be comfortable with the technology. “They made me look young,” said Mr. Erbe, who is 67, about some other volunteers. The retired middle-school teacher said he regularly uses technology.
Other volunteers are feeling more confident. Jeff Culler, a volunteer for the East Las Vegas Community Center site, said he has been pleased with the recent training. “This thing is probably just going to run smoothly,” he said on Friday, the day before the caucuses.
Alexa Corse, Emily Glazer
The Nevada Democratic Party has asked at least some volunteers in Saturday’s caucuses to sign non-disclosure agreements that could prevent them from speaking openly about the process, two volunteers said.
One volunteer said that he quit on Friday after state party representatives told him he had to sign the agreement in order to work as a site leader.
The volunteer, Seth Morrison, said he respected that some information, like identifying information about voters, should be kept confidential, but that he felt the language in the agreement was overly broad.
“They told me that if I don’t sign it, I can’t be a site lead,” he said, adding that he had asked if they could work out another option, such as an agreement with different language. “I was disappointed. I want this process to work.”
A spokeswoman for the state party contradicted that account, saying that non-disclosure agreements aren’t required for volunteers. The spokeswoman, Molly Forgey, added that it is standard practice to ask volunteers who handle sensitive internal information to sign such agreements. The state party also used such agreements during the 2018 election cycle, she said.
Another volunteer in the Las Vegas area said that he was asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement because he volunteered to help count early voting ballots. The volunteer said he thought it was “reasonable” because he was dealing with ballots.
One of the non-disclosure agreements, which is four pages long, appeared to cover not only being a caucus volunteer but also other efforts such as answering phones on behalf of the party, according to a copy reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
One part of the four-page agreement reads, “I will take all measures necessary to protect the secrecy of, and avoid disclosure and unauthorized use of, Confidential Information of the NSDP.”
The agreement also included instructions to not speak to reporters.
“With the attention focused on Nevada politics, it is possible that I will encounter reporters while working for or volunteering in an official capacity for the NSDP. If I am contacted by a reporter, I must immediately refer him or her to the Communications Director or Executive Director at the Las Vegas headquarters.”
It continued: “THERE ARE NO EXCEPTIONS.”
Alexa Corse, Emily Glazer
Hello and welcome to The Wall Street Journal’s live coverage and analysis of the 2020 Nevada caucuses.
Sen. Bernie Sanders is seeking a fresh boost of momentum for his campaign today as the rest of the field tries to blunt his progress ahead of primaries in 15 states during the next two weeks.
Polls suggest the Vermont senator is the favorite in Nevada, the third nominating contest and first in a state that is racially and ethnically diverse. He basically tied for first in Iowa’s caucuses, before narrowly winning New Hampshire’s primary.
Early voting in Nevada began Feb. 15 and ended on Feb. 18.
Doors open no later than 10 a.m. local time and caucus-goers will be called to order at noon.
For more on how the caucuses work, see our graphical explainer.