LAS VEGAS — As the Democratic presidential race hurtles toward Nevada, candidates in the still-crowded field are jumping into their first test in a racially diverse state with solid union muscle and shaky plans for a presidential caucus.
Nevada has no obvious front-runner, though Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders heads into the contest on strong footing. The state has received only a sliver of the attention of the first two states on the primary calendar, Iowa and New Hampshire. Looking at the jumbled field, the state’s most powerful union decided to take a pass on endorsing a candidate, rather than make a divisive choice or risk picking a loser. Most of the state’s most prominent officials have stayed neutral.
The open race has every Democrat spending much of the next week searching for fortunes in the state’s working-class neighborhoods, union halls, casino convention halls and stuccoed suburbs. For Sanders and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, it’s a chance to prove their staying power after strong finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire. For former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, it could be a life preserver to rescue their bids after disappointing starts. For Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, it’s a chance to prove her third-place finish in New Hampshire wasn’t a fluke.