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Bernie Sanders Cements Huge Triumph In Nevada

Bernie Sanders scored a decisive victory in the Democratic presidential caucuses in Nevada on Saturday and gained a fresh burst of momentum.

He has been buoyed by what entrance polls showed was strong support for a government-run Medicare for All healthcare plan like the one he has proposed.

Sanders, a US senator from Vermont who has made the healthcare issue a centrepiece of his campaign, faces a test of his front-runner status in the Democratic White House race in Nevada, where balloting was underway at caucus sites on Saturday.

Former Vice President Joe Biden was a distant second to Sanders with four per cent of precincts reporting in Nevada, where voters poured into more than 250 sites around the state to make their pick for a Democratic challenger to President Donald Trump in the November 3 election.

Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, was third and Senator Elizabeth Warren was fourth in scattered results in Nevada, where most of the votes were expected to take at least several hours to roll in.

In the final result of a caucus at the Bellagio hotel on the Las Vegas strip, Sanders finished with 76 votes, Biden had 45, and no other candidate ended with a vote.

Workers at the hotel who are members of the Culinary Workers Union streamed out of the caucus after backing Sanders despite their leadership expressing reservations about his healthcare plan.

The entrance poll showed six-in-10 Nevada voters at the caucuses backed the Medicare for All proposal, a version of which is also supported by Warren.

Six-out-of-10 caucus-goers want someone who can beat Trump more than someone who agrees with them on major issues, according to the poll by Edison Research.

Sanders, a self-identified democratic socialist, has surged to the top of opinion polls nationally and in Nevada after strong performances in the first two nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire earlier this month.

The Nevada caucuses came a day after news broke that Sanders had been briefed by US officials that Russia was trying to help his campaign as part of an effort to interfere with the 2020 presidential election.

While Sanders' rivals will try to blunt his momentum in the caucuses, they each face significant challenges of their own.

Biden and Warren are looking to jump-start struggling campaigns after poor finishes in the first two states, while former South Bend, Indiana, mayor Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar are hoping to prove they can appeal to Nevada's more diverse electorate.