They are not first in the nation, or even second, but the 2020 Nevada Caucuses will help add another piece to the puzzle in the Democratic nomination race.
The third Democratic presidential primary season event takes place in the Silver State, home to gambling, quasi-secret government installations, and the Golden Knights. Nevada is one of America’s fastest-growing states, and as it increases in population, its role in the nomination process becomes more crucial. We’ll call it, as some do, the “first in the West” event.
By the time these weekend caucuses take place, both the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary will have already happened. (You can see the full calendar of primaries here.) In theory, the 2020 Nevada Caucuses could be a last stand for a presidential campaign, hoping not to suffer three poor performances in a row.
Here, we take you through the recent history of the Nevada caucus and who in particular will be looking for a strong outcome here.
2020 Nevada Caucuses Results: Democratic
The above represents the second alignment of votes (after the first preferences were done and candidates went through the viability threshold). Bernie Sanders won the first alignment, second alignment, and county delegate counts in decisive fashion.
The only notable difference between the second alignment and the county delegate count is that Tom Steyer leaped over Amy Klobuchar for fifth place in the latter metric.
Participating in the Nevada Caucuses1
Those Nevada Democrats wishing to participate in the 2020 Nevada Caucuses can do so in two ways. Voters can either early vote between February 15 and 18, or attend a local caucus on February 22. The Nevada Democratic Party will announce locations and times several weeks before Caucus Day.
Past Nevada Caucus Results
Our review starts in 1988 featuring contested caucuses only; 1996 and 2012 are omitted as both featured sitting Democratic presidents running without major opposition.
2016 Nevada Democratic Caucuses Results: County Delegates Elected
Hillary Clinton defeated Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Nevada Caucuses. She won the past two contested Democratic caucuses in the Silver State. Clinton garnered over 52 percent support compared to 47 percent for Sanders.
2016 Nevada Democratic Caucuses Results Map
Bernie Sanders’ strength was in the northern part of the state, where he won more county delegates across the northern border. This includes Washoe County, home to Reno. However, Hillary Clinton won the southern part of the state, including Clark County, the most populous.
2020 Nevada Caucuses Counties to Watch
There is but one county to watch in Nevada: Clark County. There are other important municipalities elsewhere in Nevada, such as Reno and perhaps Carson City, but if you lose Clark County, you will most likely lose the state as a whole.
According to the most recent population estimates by the United States Census Bureau, Clark County accounts for over 73 percent of the state’s residents.2 No campaign is going to ignore the rest of the state in total, but there is much more to be gained by hammering away at Clark County.
The Nevada’s Secretary of State Office revealed that as of November 2019, Clark County’s active, registered Democrats accounted for about 76 percent of Democrats who vote in the state.3
On a local level, the largest city with a lot of Democratic voters is Las Vegas, but other nearby cities like Henderson and North Las Vegas also offer opportunity. A candidate hoping to win the state will need considerable support in these areas, but given that the Democratic field is so large, that vote will be diluted. Whereas 2016 was a two-candidate race, 2020 could see some notable vote splits. The likelihood remains, however, that the candidate who takes Clark County is going to win the 2020 Nevada Caucuses.
Who We Are Watching in the Nevada Caucuses
There were few polls available in the Nevada Caucuses at the end of 2019; Nevada is being overlooked in favor of Iowa and New Hampshire, with a potential for a significant shift following those first two states. As the state’s proceedings take a backseat to primaries or caucuses elsewhere for now, it would be difficult for us to say that this (as of early January 2020) would be a make-or-break contest for anyone.
Candidates hoping to do well, in the clear and current top three in Nevada, are Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.4
1: Nevada State Democratic Party, “2020 Caucus: Frequently Asked Questions,” NVDems, December 29, 2019, https://nvdems.com/2020-caucus-frequently-asked-questions/
2: United States Census Bureau, “Clark County, Nevada,” United States Census Bureau, December 29, 2019, https://www.census.gov/search-results.html?q=clark+county%2C+nv&page=1&stateGeo=none&searchtype=web&cssp=SERP&_charset_=UTF-8
3: Office of Nevada Secretary of State Barbara K. Cegavske, “November 2019 Voter Registration Statistics, Active Voters by County and Party,” Nevada Secretary of State, December 2, 2019, https://www.nvsos.gov/sos/home/showdocument?id=8150
4: FiveThirtyEight, “Nevada’s 2020 Democratic Presidential Caucuses,” FiveThirtyEight, December 29, 2019, https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2020-primaries/democratic/nevada/