Nevada was supposed to be "Hillary Country." Mrs. Clinton's own campaign staffers said as much late last year, citing her strong support among the state's minority population, 17 percent of whose voters are Latino.
But Latino support may be seeping to Bernie Sanders in the weeks leading up to the Feb. 20 Nevada Democratic caucus, with several new national polls showing the two candidates in a dead heat in a state that was thought to be a sure-win for the former secretary of State.
Which is why the Clinton camp just released an emotional new ad that will hit Nevada airwaves Thursday, a sort 11th-hour appeal to Latino voters before Saturday's caucuses.
The one-minute long ad, titled "Brave," shows a 10-year-old girl telling Clinton that she's afraid of her parents being deported.
"My parents, they have a letter of deportation," she tells Clinton at a campaign event. "I'm scared that they're going to be deported," she says, crying.
Clinton calls the girl over, wraps her arm around her, and says, "I'm going to do everything I can so you don't have to be scared."
"You don't have to worry about what happens to your mom and dad, or somebody else in your family. Let me do the worrying. I'll do all the worrying, is that a deal? I'll do all the worry. I'll do everything I can to help, OK?"
While neither the ad nor Clinton actually make any claims about what she'll do for undocumented immigrants facing deportation, it's clearly an emotional pitch for the Latino vote in Nevada. It portrays the former first lady as vulnerable, empathetic, someone who understands the immigrant struggle. Notably, the ad – and by extension its producers presumably hope, Clinton – appears to be mostly unedited, raw footage, not slick or overly polished.
Is it enough to win over Latinos in the critical state? Carrie Skulley, an assistant professor of political science at Albright College in Reading, Penn., isn't so sure.
"[The] ad hopes to address, what she thinks, Latino voters are most concerned about," says Professor Skulley. "The danger of an ad like this is that it supposes that the number one issue among Latino voters is immigration when a lot of reputable polling, like Pew, suggests that Latino voters care more about traditional issues like the economy and health care."
"So is this ad enough to attract new and younger Latino voters to the Clinton coalition? Probably not. Will it work to strengthen the support she already has? Yes."
Nationally, Latino support for Clinton is clear: The former secretary of State has a huge lead over Senator Sanders among Hispanic voters, 54 percent to 33 percent, according to a January NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll.
And a recent Quinnipiac University poll found race to be one of the biggest gulfs between Clinton and Sanders supporters, with a 37-point spread between the two candidates when their support was broken down by race.
While that gulf plays out well for Clinton in South Carolina, where the share of black voters is expected to sweep her to a decisive win, that doesn't appear to be the case in Nevada, where Clinton and Sanders are in a virtual dead heat in Nevada ahead of the caucuses, 48 percent to 47 percent, according to a CNN poll released Wednesday.
"Although the pool of potential caucus-goers in Nevada is more racially diverse than those who participated in Iowa or New Hampshire," CNN polling director Jennifer Agiesta writes, "the racial divide among likely caucus-goers isn't nearly as stark as among voters in South Carolina, with both white and non-white voters about evenly divided between the two candidates."
It's true that Clinton performs better with minority voters than with white voters. She has a 41-point favorability rating among white voters, according to Quinnipiac. Among non-whites, it's 72 points.
But it turns out not all minority voters support Clinton equally enthusiastically.
In general, non-white voters have her back, but that's largely black voters, writes Philip Bump for The Washington Post. It's not clear she can count on the same level of support from Latinos, which is why Clinton's newest ad is trying to show Latinos that she has their back. Clinton has made immigration reform a central part of her platform, with plans for creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
But her ad will need to appeal to young Latinos. There isn't enough polling in Nevada to confirm this, but based on anecdotal evidence, young Latinos in Nevada are split between Clinton and Sanders, partly due to the latter's momentum and youth appeal.
Sanders overwhelmingly won the youngest caucus-goers and voters in Iowa and New Hampshire. That's significant because about 44 percent of eligible Latino voters in the country are Millennials, 18 to 35-years-old. In other words, capturing the youth vote is critical to capturing the Latino vote.
Here, Sanders appears to understand something that Clinton doesn't, says Skulley: Latinos care about more than just immigration.
"Clinton should be concerned that her messaging doesn't resonate with younger voters," she says. "While Sanders's surge can be partially attributed to his momentum coming away from strong Iowa and New Hampshire performances, it can also be attributed to the fact that his policy goals speak to the concerns of both older and emerging voters. His progressive stance on the economy, health care, and education speaks directly to the struggles of younger voters regardless of race and ethnicity ... offering a broader message than Clinton's more narrow message about immigration."
"These trends may be particularly pronounced among younger Latinos, which could be contributing to Sanders' growing support in that state."