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US Politics & Election : Trump wins big in Nevada caucuses, continuing march to GOP nomination

Donald Trump, the billionaire reality TV star, triumphed in the Nevada caucuses on Tuesday, in a stunning win that cemented his position as the Republican presidential frontrunner with a lead that could soon be insurmountable

After his win in Nevada, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump is building a lead that is starting to look insurmountable Photograph: JOHN GURZINSKI/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
The businessman has now won three of the four early nominating states, after similarly convincing wins in South Carolina and New Hampshire.

The Nevada result was called at 9:02pm local time by the Associated Press. By 10pm, with around one in ten precincts reporting, Trump had a remarkable 44.5% of the vote.

Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, the two senators best-placed to challenge Trump, were still battling it out for second place, with both candidates hovering above 20%. Results from Nevada

However, the race for second place was overshadowed by the magnitude of Trump’s victory, which exit polls indicated was predicated upon a sweep of virtually every single demographic in the state.

At his Las Vegas victory party at the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino, Trump emphasized the breadth of his support. “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. We’re the smartest people, we’re the most loyal people.”

He got the loudest applause when he pointed out exit polls that indicated he won close to half the Latino vote. The poll, based on CNN exit data, was based on a small sample of Latino voters, but it was nonetheless a surprising figure for a candidate who has called Mexicans “rapists” and “criminals”.

“Number one with Hispanics,” Trump said. “I’m really happy about that.”

The Republicans now look ahead to Super Tuesday on 1 March, when 11 states are due to hold contests and could have a decisive impact on the Republican nomination for the White House.

Trump appears to have a lead in all the states in which recent surveys are available, except Arkansas and Texas, Cruz’s home state. In a sign of the breadth of his support, Trump is ahead of the pack in deeply conservative Alabama, Georgia and Alaska, as well as Democratic-leaning Minnesota.


In Massachusetts, Trump also leads by 50 percentage points, according to a recent poll that put Rubio at 16%.

The results came after chaotic scenes at caucus sites across Nevada, with some reports of double voting, and others of caucus volunteers – those who distribute and count the ballots – wearing official Donald Trump apparel. The Nevada GOP said it was “not against the rules” for volunteers to wear candidate hats and T-shirts.

There were also reports of voter registration mistakes at some sites, and long queues at others that may have been struggling with high turnout.

Both Cruz and Rubio needed a win in Nevada to gain the momentum required to mount a meaningful challenge to Trump, who has confounded the political establishment with a presidential campaign that some are equating to outright demagoguery.

At an eve-of-caucus campaign rally in Las Vegas on Monday, one of Trump’s most extraordinary to date, the businessman lampooned Cruz as “sick” and reacted to a heckler by saying: “I’d like to punch him in the face.”

Although the Republican race is still at an early phase and Trump is a long way off from the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the party’s nomination, he is now the clear frontrunner.

Perhaps the final deadline to throw a meaningful wrench in Trump’s path would be 15 March, when candidates enter the winner-take-all phase of the primary, when victors get all a state’s delegates. But even in those big-prize states Trump maintains a commanding lead over rivals who should have a home advantage, such as Rubio in Florida, and John Kasich, the governor of Ohio.

Trump’s victory in Nevada was predicted in the polls, one of which suggested he had a remarkable 26-point lead over his rivals.

However, the Texas senator, who fired his national campaign spokesman over a scandal involving false accusations he promoted about Rubio’s commitment to the Bible, appears to be running out of options.

Exit polls in South Carolina revealed that evangelicals, who made up 72% of voters, chose Trump over Cruz by a margin of six percentage points. The New York billionaire, who has been married three times and has flip-flopped on abortion, earned 33% of the evangelical vote to Cruz’s 27% and Rubio’s 22%.

However, Trump’s Nevada win may be even more alarming for Rubio, who had flown out of the state, heading to a rally in Michigan, before the results were even in.

The senator from Florida spent part of his childhood in Las Vegas when his father worked behind a bar and his mother was a hotel maid. He was also baptized as a Mormon, a key voting demographic in the state that his campaign had pursued relentlessly.

Rubio was also counting on a boost of momentum from supporters switching from his longtime mentor Jeb Bush, who exited the race after finishing fourth in South Carolina.

Bush’s withdrawal from the race leaves only Rubio – and Ohio governor John Kasich, who is trailing in most polls – as the Republican establishment candidates hoping to overcome the former host of The Apprentice.

In recent days many top Republican figures have been throwing their weight behind Rubio, to limited effect in Nevada.

The fifth Republican left in the race is retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who is languishing at around 7% in national polls.

The evidence in Las Vegas, as elsewhere in the country, points to this being an election year in which Republican voters, disaffected with conventional politics, and fearful of a quickly changing world, want to gamble with Trump.

It is remarkable, on the campaign trail, how many people lured to his mega rallies say they are not partisan Republicans, but the kind of voters who dip in and out of elections during once-in-a-generation contests.

Patrick Cress, a 61-year-old businessman at the Trump rally, said the last time he voted in an election was in 1972, for Democrat George McGovern. “I was a kid in California and we wanted them to legalize marijuana,” he said. (McGovern never actually supported flat-out legalization, although many of his younger supporters thought he did.)

“You don’t have to say, ‘Who is this Trump guy’. You’ve been seeing him on the TV for years and years and years,” Cress said, adding the frontrunner stands for “jobs, money, [not] getting ripped off by other countries”.

Cress, who owns a fireworks business in New Mexico, was asked where he obtains his inventory from. “Straight from China, bro. I go straight to direct import. I don’t mind staying it.”

And how would he feel if Trump implemented his promise of tariffs on Chinese imports?

“He will,” he replied. “And I’m willing to pay for it. I want to see my country winning again. Trump is a winner. And I’m sick of losing.”




REPUBLICANS

Statewide results

472/1,784 precincts (26.5%) reporting


Donald Trump
8,388

43.5%


Marco Rubio


4,709

24.4%


Ted Cruz


4,311

22.4%


Ben Carson


1,066

5.5%


John Kasich


715

3.7%


19,268 total votes
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