Hillary Clinton won a razor-close contest in the Nevada caucus against a late-surging Bernie Sanders, and will likely win the popular vote in the state by about 4 points once all the votes are cast.
This is a smaller victory margin than she achieved in 2008, when she defeated Barack Obama by around 6 points. In that contest, Obama managed to edge Clinton in overall delegates.
The exact delegate split between Clinton and Sanders probably won’t be known for a day or so. Regardless, the close race in Nevada is a worrying sign for Clinton. At the beginning of February, Clinton was leading Sanders in the state by around 20 points.
Nevada has long been considered one of Clinton’s firewalls, because of the higher number of minority voters in the state. Clinton won Hispanic votes in 2008 by an overwhelming margin. The state was also one of Clinton’s early lines of defense against Obama in 2008. Obama began running the tables of primary and caucus states soon after the Nevada results.
A win for Clinton in Nevada is obviously good news, to a point. But the quick erosion in her support there and her inability to match her 2008 result against Obama, who is generally considered to have more political skills than the septagenarian Sanders, ought to be a serious concern for Hillary’s campaign.
Looking at the exit polls, there are several serious problems for Clinton and her potential campaign for the White House.
Young Voters Really Don’t Like Hillary
The results in Nevada were largely a generational divide. Sanders won the votes of around 75 percent of caucus-goers who were under 45. Clinton won about 66 percent of caucus-goers who were over 45. Fortunately for Clinton, caucus-goers 45 and older outnumbered younger voters.
Clinton ran far better among younger voters in 2008 than this year. While she lost 18-29 year olds to Barack Obama by around 20 points, she only lost voters 30-45 by 8 points. Among voters 60 and older, Clinton beat Obama by almost 30 points, around where she finished Saturday against Sanders.
Barack Obama was widely credited with empowering young voters and channeling their energy to power his upset win in the Democrat primary. Their historic turnout in both 2008 and 2012 helped him to overcome Republicans in November, as well. Sanders, however, is doing far better with young voters than even Obama.
Women Aren’t Rallying to Hillary
Unlike 2008, Hillary Clinton has made her gender, and the potentially historic nature of her nomination and Presidency, the centerpiece of her campaign pitch this year. It isn’t working in the way that the Clinton campaign probably expected.
A large majority of women younger than 45 supported Sanders in Nevada. Clinton won the votes of women older than 45 by a 2-1 margin, but that isn’t any stronger than her support among that general age-group.
Age, then, not gender, is the dispositive factor in whether a Democrat supports Sanders or Clinton. In 2008, Clinton won female voters by 13 points and only lost men by 2 points against Obama. Sanders is winning male voters by 9 points this year.
Latinos Break for Sanders
In 2008, Hillary Clinton was powered by overwhelming support from Latino voters. That year, she won 64 percent of Hispanics. This year, Sanders is winning Latino voters by a wide margin. According to entrance polls, Latinos broke for Sanders by 8 points, 53 percent to 45 percent.
This is particularly interesting because Clinton had made her support for amnesty and immigration reform a key message in the final days of the campaign. She had attacked Sanders for coming to the issue late.
Sanders also edged Clinton with white voters. He beat her by two points. In 2008, Clinton had won white voters by 18 points. Her win in the state was buoyed by support from black voters. Clinton beat Sanders overwhelmingly among African-Americans, 76-22. Her landslide with black voters was only slightly smaller than the margin Obama ran up against her in 2008, when he beat her 83-14.
Clinton’s support is distilling down to two factors, demographically. She has overwhelming support from older voters and African-Americans. She is losing every other voting block. This may get her through the primary, but it suggests a turnout problem in the general.
Hillary Fails on Honesty
According to Nevada entrance polls, around a quarter of caucus-goers list a candidate’s honesty and trustworthiness as the most important factor in their vote. Sanders clobbers Clinton on this quality, 82-12. Sanders also wins the empathy vote. Voters who say “cares about people like me” is their most important quality in a candidate prefer Sanders 72-26.
In 2012, Barack Obama lost every candidate quality question to Mitt Romney, except one. More than 80 percent of voters believed Obama “cared more” about them than Romney.
If Clinton can’t win the honesty or empathy vote among Democrats, she will face serious headwinds in November, if she becomes the nominee.
Clinton eked out a win in Nevada. The win, however, may end up revealing the cause of her eventual defeat.