The seemingly unstoppable train that is Donald Trump rolled on in Nevada on Tuesday, as the outspoken billionaire dominated the caucuses to win his third Republican victory in a row. The Republican nomination for president is now clearly his to lose.
Despite reports of disorganization and chaotic balloting, the networks called the state for Trump as soon as the caucuses officially ended at midnight Eastern time. He pulled in 45.9 percent of the vote, outpacing Senator Marco Rubio’s 23.9 percent and Ted Cruz’s 21.4 percent. Ben Carson polled 4.8 percent support, and Governor John Kasich of Ohio lagged far behind at 3.6 percent.
Following similarly dominant wins in New Hampshire and South Carolina, the Nevada victory gives Trump a head of steam going into the dozen states that hold primaries and caucuses next week on Super Tuesday. Polls show Trump leading many of those races, and the only event standing in his way is a Republican debate on Thursday night in Texas.
Speaking to cheering supporters at his headquarters shortly before 1 a.m. Eastern, Trump quickly looked ahead to Super Tuesday and began to lay his claim to the nomination. “It’s going to be an amazing two months,” he said. “We might not even need the two months, to be honest.”
Only 30 delegates were at stake on Tuesday, and given the quirky nature of the Nevada caucuses, the results were unlikely to change the trajectory of the GOP race. Officially, the Nevada GOP said the caucuses went off smoothly, but Twitter was filled with reports of disorganization, precincts running out of ballots, and the questionable (although not apparently illegal) sight of poll workers wearing Trump hats and T-shirts. Nonetheless, the outcome was a nightmare for establishment Republicans hoping to stop The Donald: Entrance polls showed Trump winning across the board, and improbably, even among Hispanics. He might not pick up a ton of delegates from the Silver State, but winning begets winning, and the results propel Trump into a national election where his celebrity and strategy of dominating free media—as opposed to door-knocking and retail campaigning—should be even more valuable.
Perhaps more importantly, Trump’s victory at least temporarily stalls the momentum for Marco Rubio, who has now gone four states without a victory. Rubio had the deepest roots in Nevada of any GOP candidate, having lived with his family in Las Vegas for several years as a child. He won a slew of endorsements after his strong finish in South Carolina and the withdrawal of Jeb Bush, yet he wasn’t able to come close to Trump on Tuesday night. Both the Kasich and Cruz campaigns seized on the results as a disappointment for the Florida senator, trying to grasp any foothold for their campaigns. Kasich is looking for victories in the Midwest to sustain his bid, while Cruz desperately needs to win Texas and other Southern states to remain viable.
But Tuesday night in Nevada belonged, once again, to Trump.