Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonWeld wins Libertarian nomination for VP Sanders supporter challenges Wyo. delegate allocation Dems to Clinton: Ignore Trump on past scandals MORE fended off Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump thought biker rally crowd would resemble ‘I Have a Dream’ speech Sanders supporter challenges Wyo. delegate allocation Snowden mocks Trump for refusing to debate Sanders MORE to narrowly win Saturday’s Democratic Nevada caucuses.
The former first lady was projected to be the winner with 52 percent of the vote, while Sanders had 48 percent. About 78 percent of precincts were reporting.
The victory for Clinton is likely to calm some nerves among her supporters after Sanders closed her lead in polls in the state and nearly pulled off an upset.
The two candidates now go to South Carolina for a primary one week from Saturday. Clinton holds a lead in polls in the state, where black voters are expected to be a force.
"I am so thrilled and so grateful to all my supporters out there," Clinton said in her victory speech in Nevada. "Some may have doubted us but we never doubted each other. This one is for you."
Sanders officially conceded Nevada to Clinton in a statement one hour after the media outlets called it for Clinton.
"I am very proud of the campaign we ran. Five weeks ago we were 25 points behind and we ended up in a very close election. And we probably will leave Nevada with a solid share of the delegates,” Sanders said.
Clinton's win comes on the back of a strong showing in the minority-rich Clark County, home of Las Vegas.
That county has about three-quarters of the state's registered Democratic voters, and it's population is majority-minority according to Census figures.
Sanders performed better in the more rural areas of the state with higher white populations. But Sanders and his supporters are arguing that the tight margin means he can compete across the country, including in states with strong minority populations.
"I am also proud of the fact that we have brought many working people and young people into the political process and believe that we have the wind at our back as we head toward Super Tuesday," he said in conceding Nevada. "I want to thank the people of Nevada for their support that they have given us and the boost that their support will give us as we go forward.”
Nevada's more diverse population was expected to give Clinton an edge; the Vermont senator lost to her by an eyelash in Iowa's caucuses and crushed her in New Hampshire's primary. It was thought that Nevada's large Hispanic population could deliver Clinton a big victory.
In her victory speech, Clinton emphasized issues important to minority voters such as criminal justice reform. She said she was running "a campaign to break down every barrier that holds you back."
And she deepened her barb on Sanders as a single-issue candidate without directly mentioning him by name.
"If we listen to the voices of Flint and Ferguson, if we open our hearts to the families of coal country and Indian country, if we listen to the hopes and heartaches of hardworking people across America, it's clear that there is so much more to be done," she said. "The truth is, we aren't a single issue country. We need more than a plan for the big banks, the middle class needs a raise and we need more jobs."
Thirty-five of the state's 43 Democratic delegates will be awarded by the results in Nevada. With about 73 percent of precincts reporting, The Associated Press pegs 19 delegates for Clinton compared to 14 for Sanders. The two remaining pledged delegates will be awarded as the results continue to trickle in.
The additional 8 delegates are superdelegates, party leaders who have the freedom to make their own choice of who to support. Three of Nevada's are backing Clinton, one is backing Sanders, while the remaining have not publicly taken sides.
Sanders held a delegate lead after his blowout win in New Hampshire, but Clinton's victory in Nevada will close that gap.
Separately, she has a huge lead over Sanders among superdelegates — lawmakers and other party officials who get a vote on the presidential nominee. Superdelegates do not have to commit to a candidate until the national convention, but an overwhelming number are pledging their support to Clinton.
Clinton has secured pledges from 449 superdelegates compared to 20 for Sanders, according to the Associated Press.