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 political process.
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 were battling for second place 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 in early returns.
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. He and Rubio were locked in a tight battle for second behind Trump. A third place finish in Nevada after a third place finish in South Carolina could raise questions of his viability.
Cruz congratulated Trump on his victory and said Super Tuesday 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 70 percent of Nevada precincts reporting, Trump had 45 percent of the vote, followed by Rubio at 23.4 percent and Cruz at 22.6 percent. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Ohio Governor John Kasich, who were less aggressive in the state, were at 5.1 percent and 3.5 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