Donald Trump’s dominating victory in the Nevada caucuses pushes him
further out ahead of his nearest competitors for the Republican
presidential nomination, giving his unorthodox candidacy a major boost
heading into Super Tuesday contests next week.
The real estate mogul and political newcomer now has won in the
Northeast, the South and the West by riding a wave of anger at the
Washington establishment among voters who’ve felt left out of the
Trump’s support in Nevada and elsewhere has come from a broad swath
of demographic groups that also sets him up well to capture the
nomination in the contests ahead -- the rich and poor, college educated
and less educated, and in Nevada, Latino voters as well. In his
victory speech, he said he’s in position to put the race away.
“It’s going to be an amazing two months," Trump said, referring to
the nomination calendar. "We might not even need the two months, folks,
to be honest."
The Nevada results dealt a blow to Senators Marco Rubio and Ted
Cruz, who trailed far behind Trump in second and third, respectively, in
Tuesday’s Nevada contest. Rubio was counting on picking up the
supporters of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who dropped out of the
race Saturday, to position himself as Trump’s top challenger. But there
was little evidence of Republicans coalescing behind Rubio, as Trump
beat him nearly two-to-one.
Cruz, the only candidate to best Trump so far, entered the race as
the standard-bearer of conservative Republicans and evangelical
Christians, but those groups have not rallied to his campaign since his
win in Iowa. In addition, Cruz has spent recent days battling charges
from both Trump and Rubio that he’s running a dirty campaign. His third
place finish in Nevada after a third place finish in South Carolina is
sure to raise questions about the viability of his campaign.
Cruz congratulated Trump on his victory and said Super Tuesday,
which includes his home state of Texas, will be the “most important
night” in the nomination race.
“History teaches us that nobody has ever won the nomination without
winning one of the first three primaries, and there are only two people
who have won one of the first three primaries," Cruz said, referring
to his Iowa win. “The only campaign that has beaten Donald Trump, and
the only campaign that can beat Donald Trump is this campaign.”
The win makes Trump the victor in three of the four states that have
voted on the Republican side. The big prize for the candidates will be
delivered on March 1, known as Super Tuesday, the first multi-state
day in the race and one that demands more money and campaign
infrastructure. It’s like a mini-national campaign, where coffee-shop
campaigning gives way to the kind of state and national media coverage
where Trump has thrived.
"This is what every presidential campaign dreams about: big wins in
early states and all the momentum on your side as you swing into Super
Tuesday," said Kevin Madden, a senior adviser to Mitt Romney’s 2012
Republican presidential campaign. "There’s still an opportunity for
Rubio to bring together elements of the electorate that are anti-Trump
or open to an alternative, but every day from here on out is another day
where that opening gets smaller." With all of Nevada precincts reporting, Trump had 45.9 percent of
the vote. Rubio narrowly held on to second place with 23.9 percent
followed by Cruz with 21.4 percent. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and
Ohio Governor John Kasich, who were less aggressive in the state, were
at 4.8 percent and 3.6 percent.
When CNN projected Trump the winner, a crowd of more than 1,000
supporters awaiting the candidate at Treasure Island Casino erupted
into applause and chanted, "Trump! Trump! Trump!"
Voters in Nevada were angrier and older than in the prior primaries
or caucuses, according to entrance polling reported by NBC News. They
were also more likely to want an outsider in the White House and nearly
six in 10 said they are angry at the federal government, significantly
higher than in Iowa (42 percent), New Hampshire (39 percent) and South
Carolina (40 percent).
The polling also found that six in 10 caucus-goers want the next
president to be from outside the political establishment, compared to
just 33 percent who prefer someone with political experience. Voters
were more evenly divided on that question in the three earlier states. Hispanic Vote
While just 9 percent of the electorate was Hispanic, entrance
polling posted by CNN showed that Trump won 44 percent of that group,
followed by 29 percent for Rubio and 18 percent for Cruz.
“We won the evangelicals. We won with young. We won with old. We won
with highly educated. We won with poorly educated -- I love the poorly
educated,” he said. “This is an amazing night.”
While turnout was heavy, Nevada Republican Party officials
downplayed reports of disarray at caucus locations. There were reports
that some volunteers were wearing candidate-themed clothing, but the
party said that wasn’t prohibited.
Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told reporters Tuesday
night at the Community College of Southern Nevada, where Trump appeared
at a caucus site, that the location was "out of ballots" and he’d
heard efforts were being made to print more. He attributed the shortage
to the "massive crowds," saying that "this is one of the busiest
polling places in the state."
As the Republican field has narrowed, Trump is more frequently
targeting his two closest rivals. That trend continued during the final
days of campaigning before Nevada’s caucuses.
Trump’s aggressiveness toward Cruz follows the Texas senator’s
third-place showing in South Carolina’s primary on Saturday, which has
raised questions about his ability to sustain the nomination race.
Evangelical Christians, a group that coalesced around him in Iowa,
accounted for almost three-quarters of the vote in South Carolina. Even
with that favorable environment for Cruz, Trump beat him by more than
10 percentage points.
On Monday, Cruz confronted a major distraction when he fired his
campaign communications director, who had spread a video on social
media that misrepresented something Rubio had said about the Bible.
Republicans will gather on Thursday in Houston for their 10th debate
-- the first since Bush suspended his campaign after a poor showing in
Saturday’s South Carolina primary.
Especially since Bush’s exit, Rubio has tried to portray himself as
the most viable mainstream conservative to beat Trump and win a general
election. He could use wins to appeal to donors because he’s more in
danger of running out of money than Cruz.
Rubio, focused on future primaries, left Nevada after a Tuesday
morning rally at a casino in Las Vegas and later addressed supporters
in Minneapolis and Grand Rapids, Michigan. In both cities, the Florida
senator pitched himself as a new type of Republican who would grow the
party’s base and defeat either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders in
"The Democrats know this," he told the crowd of more than 2,000
people gathered in a Michigan warehouse. "That’s why they’re attacking
me more than anyone on that stage."
In Nevada, Trump benefited from a high profile both nationally and in Las Vegas, where he owns property and has employees.
In a state where 21 percent of the population is of Mexican
ancestry, Trump sought to tap into resentment among white Republicans by
repeatedly promising to build a wall along the Mexican border.
The Nevada win is more symbolic than substantial. The state awards
delegates proportionally, based on the caucus vote, with a total of 30
in play. It takes 1,237 delegates to win the nomination.
The war of words between Trump and Cruz intensified in Nevada in the days before the caucuses.
Cruz alleged that Trump backs continued federal ownership of 85
percent of Nevada’s land, prompting Trump to call him a liar, a "nasty
guy" and a "little baby."
Hubert Llewellyn, 53, who attended both Cruz and Trump events Tuesday, said he was turned off by the crossfire and would caucus for Rubio.
“Ronald Reagan’s commandment was not to turn against fellow Republicans, to run a fair and concise campaign,” he said.
With reporting by Sahil Kapur, James Nash and Terrance Dopp