LAS VEGAS — Bernie Sanders scored a sizeable victory at Nevada’s county-level Democratic conventions on Saturday, a reversal from Hillary Clinton’s comfortable triumph at the state’s higher-profile Democratic caucuses on Feb 20.
But the chance that Sanders ultimately wins Nevada by scoring a majority of its delegates remains remote. Here are some things to know:
MOST DELEGATES SET IN FEBRUARY
Nevada will send 43 delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July, where they will cast the votes that decide whether Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton will be the party’s nominee. Twenty-three of those delegates are required to cast their votes based on the results of the February caucus, when 84,000 Democrats turned out and 53 percent opted for Clinton.
Clinton won 13 “district-level” delegates from the caucuses, while Sanders won 10.
SUPERDELEGATES FAVOR HILLARY
Eight elected officials and party leaders in Nevada are considered “superdelegates” and can choose whomever they like at the July convention. The unpledged superdelegates include U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, state Sen. Ruben Kihuen and Rep. Dina Titus, along with other influential Nevada Democrats.
Four superdelegates have told The Associated Press that they favor Hillary Clinton, while one plans to vote for Bernie Sanders and three others haven’t disclosed who they’ll choose.
Superdelegates account for one-third of the delegates at the national convention, and they overwhelmingly favor Clinton, according to an AP survey.
TWELVE DELEGATES PENDING
The votes of a dozen delegates are being decided through a three-step process that includes the February caucuses, the county-level conventions that took place this weekend and a state-level convention May 14 in Las Vegas.
Attendees at the caucuses elected 12,233 people from among themselves to serve at county conventions on April 2. While caucus attendees generally know who their chosen delegate will vote for at the county convention, those delegates are free to change their mind.
Delegates vote at the county convention and then choose a smaller number of delegates to advance to the next level — the state convention. Delegates to the state convention are also “unbound” and free to switch from one candidate to another at the next level.
The outcome of the state convention will lock in how seven “at-large” delegates and five pledged “party leader and elected official” delegates will vote at the national convention.
WHAT DOES A SANDERS WIN SHOW?
Sanders’ win at the county convention hasn’t earned him any more delegates yet, because only the outcome at the state convention matters in deciding Nevada’s last 12 delegates.
However, the county results mean a greater number of delegates who are likely to vote for Sanders will be casting their vote at the state convention.
After the caucuses, Clinton was projected to win 20 delegates compared with Sanders’ 15, assuming she would win the same proportion of delegates at the county and state conventions that she did at the caucus level. She landed 13 delegates at the caucus and was expected to get seven from the state convention, while Sanders got 10 at the caucus and was expected to get five at the state level.
Clinton underperformed at the county conventions, taking just 45 percent of the vote. Many of the 12,233 district-level delegates didn’t show up to their county events, but the number of no-shows appeared to be larger among Clinton supporters.
Now, Clinton is projected to win 18 delegates to Sanders’ 17, if Sanders prevails by the same margin at the state convention. Clinton’s widely expected to keep her Nevada win except in the unlikely event of a Sanders blowout at the state level or if Clinton-backing superdelegates defect to the Sanders camp.
While the ultimate impact is small, Sanders’ victory Saturday shows his campaign was more successful at motivating thousands of supporters to turn out at the county convention, and indicates more grassroots enthusiasm for his candidacy.
That’s enthusiasm the Democrats will need to win November’s general election.
FLIP HAPPENED IN PAST
While voters might assume a win at the caucuses is the end of the story, candidates who win Nevada’s caucuses could ultimately lose the measure that matters — the delegate count.
That’s what happened to Clinton in 2008. While she won the popular vote at the caucuses, a majority of delegates selected through Nevada’s months-long delegate selection process ultimately chose then-Sen. Barack Obama.