early and often

There’s Just One Winner in Nevada: Donald Trump

Donald Trump Hosts Nevada Caucus Night Watch Party In Las Vegas
A triumphant Trump onstage in Nevada. Photo: Ethan Miller/2016 Getty Images

So let us count the ways the Nevada caucus was a significant win for Donald Trump. According to the entrance polls, he’s winning about 45 percent of the vote, which raises the “ceiling” on his support to a level uncomfortably close to a majority. This was a caucus state, which was supposed to favor the candidates with superior organization (Cruz) and endorsements (Rubio). Nevada Republicans did not let registered independents participate or switch party affiliation at the caucus sites (as Democrats did); that was supposed to disenfranchise a portion of Trump’s following. None of these handicaps mattered.

Trump again seems to have won in virtually every category of voter: moderates and conservatives (including the “very conservative”), Evangelicals and non-Evangelicals, the college-educated and the non-college-educated, those who are merely dissatisfied with the federal government and those who are angry about it. He even carried Latinos — against two Latinos. Yeah, he lost under-30 voters to Rubio, but they were only 7 percent of caucusgoers. And, yes, Rubio also carried voters who really value experience in government (unusual in any other year for a freshman senator), but they were only a third of those who came out on Tuesday. People who care most about electability went with Rubio too, but they comprised only a fourth of caucus participants. 

We’ll probably find out by tomorrow whether Rubio did well with Mormons, and how the candidates did in various regions (or maybe not, given the apparently messed-up nature of the caucus administration, which probably portends a slow count — a bit of a tradition for Nevada Republicans). This sort of slicing and dicing, which seemed important going in, doesn’t seem so important coming out of the caucuses. Trump gets a boost going into the massive and critical stretch of March primaries and caucuses that will take the remaining field well past the halfway mark in total delegates selected. The March 1 primaries are Cruz Country if ever it exists, so he’s sticking around for the time being, and Rubio will go at least another week without having won a single contest. I don’t recall if the Trump Hotel marquee just off the Strip in Vegas blinks and winks or emits a steady glow, but it ought to shine brightly all night. 

There’s Just One Winner in Nevada: Donald Trump