LAS VEGAS (CNN) - With solid backing from Latino voters and women overall, Sen. Hillary Clinton has claimed her second win of the Democratic presidential race in Saturday's Nevada caucuses, CNN projects.
Entrance polls indicated Democrats were split along ethnic, racial and generational lines. But women made up nearly 60 percent of those taking part in Saturday's contest, and the New York senator and former first lady led her top rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, by a margin of 52 percent to 35 percent among those voters.
Clinton, who won last week's New Hampshire primary, was winning the Latino vote by a nearly 3-1 margin in Nevada, according to entrance polls. Latinos make up about a quarter of the state's population and 14 percent of caucus participants, those polls found.
Saturday's contest marked the first time a Western state has played an early role in the presidential race, and Democrats are counting on Latino voters to help the party make inroads into the region in 2008.
Clinton won big in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas - home to about 1.7 million of the state's population of 2.6 million. Clinton led Obama by about 11 percentage points in the county with 90 percent of its precincts reporting.
Meanwhile, after a week punctuated by a dust-up between the Clinton and Obama campaigns over civil rights history, Obama led overwhelmingly among the 16 percent of his fellow African-Americans who came out to caucus. Nearly 80 percent of black caucus-goers supported Obama, who won the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses - and black voters are expected to make up about half of the electorate in South Carolina, the scene of the party's next primary.
"Right now, things are very uneasy in the black community," said Donna Brazile, a CNN analyst who managed former Vice President Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign. She said her own relatives in South Carolina are split between Clinton and Obama.
"This is a key test, not just for the black vote, but also a key test for the Democrats in terms of heading South," she said.
South Carolina is also the native state of the third major Democrat in the race, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who finished in single digits in Nevada. Edwards finished second in Iowa and third in New Hampshire, but has vowed to stay in the race until the party's August convention in
Obama also led strongly among voters under 30, while Clinton took the over-45 category.
Like Republicans, Democratic caucus-goers called the economy their top issue in 2008 - and they preferred Clinton, whose husband presided over a lengthy economic boom in the 1990s, by a 49-38 margin over Obama.
The war in Iraq and health care were the No. 2 and No. 3 issues for Democrats, and Clinton led strongly among voters who chose those as their top issues, the entrance polls found.
Edwards has based his campaign on a strong populist pitch targeting corporate interests, whom he said have "rigged" Washington in their favor. But he drew the support of just 10 percent of caucus-goers who called the economy their top issue, and 11 percent among those who viewed health care their biggest concern.
Nevada Democrats said they had a record turnout for Saturday's caucuses, with more than 107,000 people taking part.
The caucuses were held after a dispute between two of the state's largest labor organizations, the 60,000-member Culinary Workers Union and the 28,000 strong Nevada State Education Education, which represents teachers.
The state Democratic Party gave the nearly 200,000 workers on the Las Vegas strip a chance to take part in the caucuses by setting up nine "at-large" precincts in casinos. That was expected to give a boost to Obama once the culinary workers endorsed the Illinois senator.
The teachers union went to court last week to block the plan, arguing it gave hotel and casino employees an unfair advantage over other workers and granted outsized weight to the "at-large" precincts. A federal judge in Las Vegas rejected the suit Thursday, ruling that caucus procedures were up to the state party to decide.
CNN's projection of Clinton as the eventual winner is based on precincts reporting results, entrance polls and other statistical models - including the number of votes outstanding in areas where Clinton was expected to do well.
–CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider contributed to this report