Trump easily won the Nevada caucuses, and news networks projected him as the winner almost as soon as results started to be reported. According to very early reports last night, he had exceeded expectations by capturing more than 40% of the vote. Cruz and Rubio were once again virtually tied for second. Either one may end up with the dubious bragging rights of being first runner-up to Trump. None of the top three needed a win last night more than Rubio, and his campaign fell short as usual. The caucuses themselves were reportedly run poorly enough that Nevada seems sure to lose its early state privileges in the future.
Nevada allocates delegates proportionally, so Trump won’t expand his delegate lead by that much from this win. He is on track to receive as many as 12 delegates (update: make that 14), which increases his overall lead by a few. Nonetheless, Nevada gives him his third consecutive victory, and it keeps Rubio winless through the end of February. It demonstrates once again that Trump’s support is great enough to overwhelm Cruz and Rubio even in states where they have made significant efforts to organize. Nevada was the state in which Rubio supposedly had “the most organized and impressive operation of the Republican field,” and at best it delivered him a distant second place.
The entrance poll’s results matched fairly closely with the final result, and some of the internal numbers are worth mentioning. As Trump usually does, he dominated among moderates and “somewhat” conservative voters by hefty margins (+26 and +23 respectively), but he also edged out Cruz among the “very conservative” by seven points. As he did in South Carolina, he won among evangelicals by double digits. 61% of caucus-goers said they wanted a nominee from “outside politics,” and 70% of that group went for Trump. Once again, Rubio won late-deciders, but they made up just 30% of the voters, and Trump had the support of more than half of the people that had decided early.
Contrary to expectations, the polling in Nevada seems to have been fairly accurate. The huge Trump lead that the polls reflected ahead of the caucuses last night was real. Trump’s 40+% in Nevada once again shows that his support within the party is not as limited as his opponents would like to believe. Barring some dramatic change in that support in the next two weeks, Trump is on track to take a very large lead in the delegate count, and there seems to be nothing that any of the other candidates can do to prevent that at this point.