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Bernie Sanders Will Likely Win Nevada. Can He Be Stopped Afterwards?

LAS VEGAS — Bernie Sanders seemed to be enjoying himself as he made his final pitch in Nevada ahead of Saturday’s caucuses. “As you may have noticed lately, the establishment is getting a little bit nervous,” he said to cheers at his Friday night rally before mimicking the hand-wringing Democrats panicking over his rise. “‘Oh…

Bernie Sanders Will Likely Win Nevada. Can He Be Stopped Afterwards?

LAS VEGAS — Bernie Sanders seemed to be enjoying himself as he made his final pitch in Nevada ahead of Saturday’s caucuses.

“As you may have noticed lately, the establishment is getting a little bit nervous,” he said to cheers at his Friday night rally before mimicking the hand-wringing Democrats panicking over his rise.

“‘Oh my god, they’re putting together a multi-generational, multi-racial movement of millions of millions of people! Oh my goodness, how can we stop them?’” he continued as his thousands-strong crowd laughed. “They’re getting nervous. But you know what? When we stand up together, they ain’t going to stop us.”

Sanders appears to be cruising to an easy win in Nevada’s Saturday caucuses, buoyed by a fractured field of middling candidates struggling to break out against him.

He’s had a comfortable lead in most recent polls. He’s drawing the largest crowds — the official crowd count from the venue staff Friday night was, no joke, 2,020 attendees, not his biggest crowd this week but a number one Sanders supporter called an “omen” as he left the event.

He showed so much confidence in his standing in the state that broke away to campaign in Washington and California in the week ahead of the caucuses.

Rival campaigns admit that everyone else is left fighting it out for second place, not a good position for them to be in when all of them need a strong performance to build the momentum needed to compete on Super Tuesday ten days from now.

“All signs point to a Bernie victory,” said Jon Ralston, the head of the Nevada Independent and the state’s top political analyst. “And second is such a muddle.”

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While Sanders has been hovering around 30% in most recent Nevada polls, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer have all been bunched up in the teens.

READ: Elizabeth Warren is finally getting ruthless. Is it too late?

A strong second place could let one of the non-Sanders candidates claim momentum and head into South Carolina next Saturday with a bounce in their step, potentially slingshotting into Super Tuesday. And Nevada is notoriously hard to poll, so Saturday’s caucuses could produce a surprise.

Scramble for second-place

But nearly everyone competing in Nevada not named Sanders is running low on resources and struggling to break out of a muddled field. A distant second place is unlikely to produce the bounce needed for anyone to break out of the pack.

In short (and since it’s Nevada), Sanders looks like he’ll be leaving Las Vegas the big winner. And the rest of the field are quickly running out of chips.

That’s especially problematic for Biden, whose lead in Nevada polls was erased by his disastrous showings in Iowa and New Hampshire. He has publicly proclaimed his comeback must start in Nevada, a state with a lot more diverse population and high union density. His once-dominant poll numbers in South Carolina have suddenly disappeared, and without a strong Nevada finish he may well lose in the state he’s described as his firewall.

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