Wall Street Journal
By Reid Epstein, Byron Tau, Alexandra Berzon
February 24, 2016
Donald Trump won the Nevada Republican caucuses Tuesday, claiming victory in the third state in a row and reinforcing his status as the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination.
The outcome gives Mr. Trump another blast of momentum heading into the next contest March 1 when 11 states will hold primaries and caucuses, and when more convention delegates will be awarded than on any other primary day of the 2016 calendar.
The Associated Press declared Mr. Trump the winner shortly after 9 p.m. local time, when the caucuses closed. It hadn’t yet declared the winner for second place between Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
At a victory party at the Treasure Island casino on the Las Vegas Strip, Mr. Trump said the momentum from Nevada would carry him through elections in Texas, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida and beyond. He said he was particularly pleased by apparent support from Hispanic and evangelical voters.
“Now we’re winning, winning, winning the country, and soon the country is going to start winning, winning, winning,” Mr. Trump said.
Entrance polls showed Mr. Trump’s win in Nevada involved a broad swath of GOP voters. He won by big margins among both men and women, and led his rivals among all age groups surveyed. He was the top choice for both conservative and moderate voters. He also led his rivals among Republican voters of all education levels—but drew his highest level of support from caucus-goers with no college degree.
Mr. Trump also won pluralities among both white and nonwhite Republican voters, though whites made up 85% of the Republican caucus electorate in Nevada.
At a Trump rally Tuesday in Sparks, Nev., Frank Mooney, 69 years old, said he would caucus for Mr. Trump because he found the billionaire “energetic” and “exhilarating.”
“He is an outsider, and I think that is his greatest virtue,” Mr. Mooney said. “Not since Ross Perot has there been a businessman, who is willing to take on Washington, and that is what we have to have happen.”
At a Las Vegas YMCA late Tuesday night, Mr. Cruz reiterated his case that, because he finished first in Iowa’s caucuses, he ought to be the party’s alternative to Mr. Trump.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump won the Nevada caucuses. Trump now has three straight victories; New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. Photo: Getty
“The undeniable reality that the first four states have shown is that the only campaign that has beaten Donald Trump and only campaign that can beat Donald Trump is this campaign,” Mr. Cruz said. “If you were one of the 65% of Republicans across this country who doesn’t think Donald Trump is the best candidate to go head to head with Hillary, who thinks we do better when we actually nominate a conservative, then the first four states have performed a vital function of narrowing this race.”
After winning primary contests in New Hampshire and South Carolina, Mr. Trump barely campaigned ahead of Nevada’s caucuses. The New York businessman held just two campaign rallies, while Messrs. Cruz and Rubio crisscrossed the state in advance of Tuesday night’s contest.
Messrs. Rubio and Cruz also invested heavily in both television advertising and extensive ground operations here. In recent days, Mr. Cruz launched blistering attacks on Mr. Trump for his support of maintaining federal land management in the state. But Mr. Cruz was distracted when he was forced to dump a top aide Monday over the aide’s social-media postings.
Mr. Rubio sought to remain above the fray, never mentioning his rivals’ names during five campaign stops in three days. But to reporters, Mr. Rubio delivered a blistering critique of Mr. Cruz and suggested Mr. Trump hasn’t studied up on issues enough to be commander-in-chief.
Support for Mr. Trump among Republican voters only appears to be growing, despite an increasing consensus among the party’s establishment in favor of Mr. Rubio, and to a lesser extent Mr. Cruz. Elite party opinion quickly coalesced around Mr. Rubio after former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush ended his presidential bid last weekend.
Mr. Rubio announced nearly two dozen new endorsement since Saturday night, including the former presidential candidates Tim Pawlenty and Bob Dole, Sens. Orrin Hatch, Jeff Flake and Dean Heller, as well as four members of the Florida congressional delegation who had previously backed Mr. Bush.
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who appeared to place well behind the first three candidates—and finished fourth in Iowa, eighth in New Hampshire and sixth in South Carolina—told supporters in Las Vegas that his campaign will continue.
“I believe that things are starting to happen here,” Mr. Carson said.
Trump supporters gathered at Treasure Island casino let out periodic cheers as they watched results come in on television. They lined up through the casino floor and waited in long lines to go up an elevator and head into a ballroom, taxing security efforts and upsetting some of the people trying to get to their rooms.
Supporters began a countdown before 9 p.m. and then began cheering loudly as the television stated Mr. Trump had won. Cheers of “Trump! Trump! Trump” came through the crowd.
Samantha Fenner, a Las Vegas massage therapist who cast her ballot at Bonanza High School in Las Vegas said she chose Mr. Trump because of his strong stance against illegal immigration.
“I felt strongly that national security is a huge, important issue,” she said. “I want people to come legally. We want someone who is sure in that conviction to make that happen.”
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