Bernie Sanders wasn’t physically at a Las Vegas town hall on Thursday hosted by a Latino civil-rights group, but the enthusiasm for his campaign was still apparent. While three of his rivals—former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; and the businessman Tom Steyer—were there in person and got warm receptions, the largely Latino crowd broke out in chants of “Bernie, Bernie” when the senator from Vermont appeared on a live-stream.
Even though the Democratic primary kicked off with contests in two of the whitest states in the country, Bernie Sanders is already winning big with Latino voters. In both Iowa and New Hampshire, Sanders claimed an overwhelming victory with Latinos—a validation of his playbook of mobilizing Latino voters that will now face its biggest test yet in Nevada, which is nearly 30 percent Latino and holds its caucus on Saturday. Though other candidates could still chip away at his advantage, Sanders’s success so far sends a clear sign to the rest of his field: His focus on Latino voters is paying off, and they have a daunting amount of work to do to catch up.
While overall turnout in the Iowa caucus was similar to that of 2016, Matt Barreto, the co-founder of the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, told me he estimates that Latino turnout at least doubled from four years ago, and that these voters broke sharply for Sanders. He won 51 percent of votes in the state’s 30 precincts with the most Latino voters, and in the 12 Latino-majority precincts, he won 66 percent of caucus-goers, according to an analysis by LPPI.