The Latest: All eyes on Nevada’s caucuses after Iowa muddle

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Latest on the 2020 presidential campaign (all times local):

12:45 p.m.

Votes are being cast in the Nevada presidential caucuses. It’s the first presidential contest in the West and the first to test the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates with black and Latino voters. Altogether, 200 locations are hosting caucuses. Among them are seven casino-resorts on the Las Vegas Strip. Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford is a Democrat who’s not endorsing a candidate. He says the state “represents an opportunity for these candidates to demonstrate their appeal to a larger swath of our country.” All eyes are on the process after the lead-off Iowa caucuses yielded a muddy result marked by error.

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12:40 p.m.

What happens at a Nevada caucus site if two candidates end up in a tie? According to one precinct leader, it comes down to the luck of the draw.

Several hundred voters and about a dozen observers were crowded into a site on the campus of the University of Nevada in Reno when things got underway. The temporary precinct captain, Becky Cohen, explained the process and said everything will be transparent, with results at each stage written on poster boards stuck to the walls.

She closed by holding up a deck of cards and saying, “If there’s a tie, God forbid, this is what we do. It’s Nevada.”

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Noon

Several of the Democratic presidential candidates are out among the voters as the Nevada caucuses get underway. Pete Buttigieg greeted supporters at a Las Vegas caucus site shortly before the start. The former South Bend, Indiana, mayor shook hands and exchanged small talk with those gathered at a south side high school.

Buttigieg nodded to Nevada’s diversity compared with the predominantly white states of Iowa and New Hampshire that have already held contests. He says Nevada offers him a chance to prove he has a broad base of support. Buttigieg has been dogged by low polling numbers with minorities, particularly black voters.

Elizabeth Warren swung by a suburban Nevada caucus site to pose for pictures with supporters and offer doughnuts to volunteers. She ducked inside for a moment and called out to voters still waiting in line to caucus. She said: “Thank you for participating in democracy.”

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11:45 a.m.

At Rancho High School, a 38-year-old Las Vegas resident, community organizer and political activist was changing her voter registration from independent so that she could caucus.

Lashonda Marve-Austin said: “I’m black, so I don’t want a candidate that just wants to do the right thing for black people. I want them to do the right thing for all the people. She added: “And then I’m poor, so I don’t want them to just do the right thing for poor people, I want them to do what’s right for people overall.”

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11:30 a.m.

The chairman of the Democratic National Committee is expressing confidence that the Nevada caucuses will go smoothly and won’t repeat the problems that muddied the results in Iowa. The hours ahead will show whether he’s correct.

Tom Perez spoke to reporters Saturday at a caucus site at the Bellagio hotel and casino on the Las Vegas strip. He says the goal in Saturday’s caucuses is to release the results as soon as possible but “first and foremost, to get it right.”

Perez says the popularity of early voting made processing those votes difficult but party officials have worked overtime to accomplish the task.

Nearly 75,000 people participated in a four-day early voting period that ended on Tuesday. Their choices will be added to results of Saturday’s in-person caucusing. Perez says the party has trained more than 3,000 people to carry out the caucuses, with training going on as recently as Friday.

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11 a.m.

Before the sun started peeking out behind the clouds in late morning, Elizabeth Warren volunteers were shielding Nevada caucus goers for the rain with umbrellas as they entered a caucus location at a high school on the east side of Las Vegas.

Turnout appeared to be light and there was no line at the registration tables an hour before caucuses were supposed to start.

In one room with about a dozen caucus-goers standing around chatting, about half the attendees were wearing Pete Buttigieg buttons.

One Buttigieg supporter, 54-year-old Sue Thornton, said she worried the poor weather in the morning and the early vote may have cut into caucus-day turnout. She said in 2016, lines were out the door when she showed up to caucus.

Thornton works in food and beverage management at a hotel-casino. She said she was interested in Buttigieg from the start and his performance in the campaign sealed her support. She says: “I am a sucker for a nerd and a geek, and he fits the bill. … Stays calm and collected. Speaks seven languages, for goodness’ sake.”

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10 a.m.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren says her presidential campaign has raised $14 million in the past 10 days.

In a tweet, the Democratic hopeful says the haul is double what the campaign had hoped to raise between the New Hampshire primary and Saturday’s Nevada caucuses. It’s unclear how much came in since Wednesday night, when Warren savaged New York billionaire Mike Bloomberg during the Democratic debate in Las Vegas.

Warren’s disappointing fourth place finish in her neighboring state of New Hampshire was considered potentially fatal to her campaign. But her supporters believe she can build on her strong debate performance and find a path to victory. The money will help.

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9:45 a.m.

Nevada Democrats say they added 10,000 people to their rolls during four days of early caucus voting this week.

The state party announced Saturday, hours before presidential caucuses were set to begin, that more than one out of 10 early voters took advantage of same-day registration and became Democratic voters.

Nevada’s caucuses are open only to Democrats but people can register as Democrats or switch their affiliation as they show up to vote.

Democrats outnumber Republicans in Nevada and had about 610,000 active registered voters through the end of January.

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9:15 a.m.

The political focus Saturday is on the 200 locations across Nevada that are hosting presidential caucuses.

It’s the third contest on the 2020 election calendar as Democrats try to determine which candidate will take on President Donald Trump in November.

Nevada will test the candidates’ strength with black and Latino voters for the first time in 2020, after contests in overwhelmingly white Iowa and New Hampshire.

Questions linger about Nevada Democrats’ ability to report election results quickly as new concerns surface about foreign interference in the U.S. election. Saturday’s caucuses are the first since technical glitches and human errors plagued Iowa’s kickoff caucuses. Nevada Democrats have projected confidence in their process but it’s not certain full results will be released on the day of the vote.

The state party added to its responsibilities by offering early voting — something Iowa didn’t attempt.

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9 a.m.

President Donald Trump is mocking a recent intelligence briefing given to the House intelligence committee about Moscow’s interference in the 2020 race. He’s claiming that House Democrats are saying Russia wants Bernie Sanders to win.

Democratic presidential candidate Sanders said Friday that U.S. officials told him about a month ago that Russia has been trying to help his campaign, just as Russia did on Trump’s behalf in 2016.

There actually are conflicting accounts about what the briefers told the House intelligence committee about Russia’s intentions. One intelligence official said members were not told in the briefing that Russia was working to aid Trump directly. But advancing Sanders’ candidacy could be seen as beneficial to Trump’s reelection prospects.

Trump tweeted sarcastically that Nevada Democrats, voting in Saturday’s caucuses, need to be careful of “Russia, Russia, Russia.”

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8:45 a.m.

A busload of volunteers for Pete Buttigieg is on its way to South Carolina from Indiana to knock on doors for him in the campaign for the Democratic presidential primary a week away.

His campaign says 18 volunteers are coming from South Bend and Gary to spread the word on the former South Bend mayor. They’ll also attend Sunday church services before heading back. Buttigieg and other contenders are in Nevada for that state’s caucuses Saturday.

The candidates are expected to spend much of the coming week campaigning in South Carolina for the last of the four early-voting contests. Their debate in Charleston on Tuesday will be the final one before that primary and the March 3 Super Tuesday contests.

 

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