Democrats seek path through diverse states after Iowa and NH

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Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., holds a rally at Keene State College in Keene, N.H., Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020. (Kristopher Radder/The Brattleboro Reformer via AP)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Democratic presidential candidates plotted their paths Wednesday into state primaries now expanding to include voters of color, while the party's establishment braced for a long and increasingly uncertain nomination fight ahead.

Sen. Bernie Sanders' win in the New Hampshire primary set off a new round of strategizing among moderate party stalwarts searching for a way to knock the Vermont independent off course. Former Vice President Joe Biden made a personal appeal to donors nervous about his dismal showing in the first two contests, while Sen. Amy Klobuchar hustled to take advantage of a burst of momentum and money. Pete Buttigieg, second to Sanders in New Hampshire and slightly leading in delegates, made a pitch to pull critical union members away from the progressive senator.

“This is far from over, and this is going to be a pretty extended process,” said Jim Margolis, who advised California Sen. Kamala Harris’ now-defunct campaign.

The race rolls ahead to Nevada, which holds its caucuses on Feb. 22, and South Carolina, whose primary is a week later. That lineup sets up an immediate fight over the voters largely left out of contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, namely Latino, black and union voters.

That put immediate pressure on leading candidates to show they could compete outside the largely white states that launched the nominating procession.

Buttigieg, the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor, argued that Sanders' “Medicare for All” plan would unravel some unions members' gold-standard health care plans, pointing to the influential Culinary Union that represents workers on the Las Vegas Strip.

“If the choice is between Sen. Sanders telling them they're going to have to give that up and me saying that we can enhance and increase choice without asking them to sacrifice what they have worked so hard for, I think that is a very good debate for us to have and I'm looking forward to having that debate,” Buttigieg said on NBC's “Morning Joe.”

Klobuchar's campaign worked to keep a tailwind from Tuesday's strong third-place finish. A campaign that once was down to boasting of being in the “top five” vacuumed up donations — more than $6 million in recent days — and scrambled to build out the field operations and advertising needed to put the cash to use. Klobuchar's campaign launched two new television and digital ads in Nevada on Wednesday.