By DANTE CHINNI – – – –
Who won the Hispanic vote in Nevada? The answer is at the center of a fight between the two Democratic presidential candidates.
The entrance polls, conducted as voters headed to the caucuses, show a solid win for Sen.Bernie Sanders among Latinos. He carried the vote 53% to 45% over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
On Saturday night, the Sanders campaign issued a press release declaring, “Sanders Wins Latino Vote.” And Mr. Sanders’s deputy campaign director said it was “a myth” that Mrs. Clinton could rely on Hispanic voters to be a “firewall” against the Vermont senator in coming races.
Not so fast, said the Clinton campaign. How, the Clinton team asks, was Mr Sanders’s big margin with Hispanics possible considering that Mrs. Clinton carried Clark County, which is heavily Hispanic, by 11 points in the actual voting? The Clinton camp released a memo asking just that question Sunday night.
“Indeed, a simple analysis of precinct caucus sites in Clark County, Nev., show that the most heavily Latino caucuses went overwhelmingly for Clinton,” the memo said, before listing a string of precincts to back up its point.
In the overall vote, Mrs. Clinton carried Nevada by more than five points in the final tally,52.6% to 47.3% for Mr. Sanders. Along with the strong Clark County results, a win in the state also signals a strong showing for Mrs. Clinton among Hispanics.
But perceptions are important. With many more states looming on the primary calendar that also have large Hispanic populations, such as Texas, both sides have cause to present at least the idea of momentum with the group.
And while we may never know who’s right, the Clinton campaign raises some very good points. The entrance polls showed Mrs. Clinton losing white non-Hispanic voters by 2 points and Hispanics by 8 points. That would make an 11-point win in Clark all but impossible.
Entrance polls at caucuses are known for being notoriously difficult to conduct because turnout is generally lower than it is in a primary. Small fluctuations from year to year in turnout at particular caucus sites can have big impacts on polling tallies.
On top of that, there are the differences within the Hispanic/Latino population itself – the differences between recent immigrants and second- and third-generation Hispanics, differences in income level and differences in educational attainment.
All those variations may lead to different attitudes about Mrs. Clinton and Mr Sanders. They could also lead to different attitudes about who participates in an entrance poll in the first place.
So the battle will rage with lots of questions and lots of spin at least until March 1, when we get a vote out of Texas, which has a population that is 39% Hispanic.