Progressive firebrand Bernie Sanders earned a decisive victory Saturday in the Nevada caucuses, solidifying his frontrunner status in the race to choose the Democratic nominee who faces President Donald Trump in November's election.
His win is a substantial accomplishment in a state seen as an important bellwether because it is the first diverse electorate to weigh in on the 2020 presidential race.
It also shows that Sanders has been able to broaden a coalition beyond the narrow limits of leftist voters, refuting the argument used by several moderates in the race that he would not be able to bridge the divide between progressives and centrists.
By late Saturday Sanders was comfortably ahead with half of all precincts reporting.
The 78-year-old senator from Vermont was leading with about 46 percent, followed by former vice president Joe Biden at 19 percent.
South Bend, Indiana's former mayor Pete Buttigieg, who scored a shock narrow win in Iowa to start the race nearly three weeks ago, stood in third at 15 percent.
The two female US senators in the running, progressive Elizabeth Warren and pragmatist Amy Klobuchar, were on 10 and four percent respectively.
Sanders was quick to claim victory, saying his "multi-generational, multi-racial coalition" that won Nevada was "going to sweep this country."
His progressive policies, including universal health care, higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations, and raising the minimum wage have struck a chord with millions of Americans.
Sanders was speaking in El Paso, Texas, one of the 14 states that votes on "Super Tuesday" on March 3.