Cruz, for his part, skipped right past Nevada’s underwhelming verdict for him in his caucus-night speech and pinned his hopes on the big round of voting that’s coming up next, saying: “One week from today will be the most important night of this campaign: Super Tuesday.”
The candidates were fanning out to their next targets of opportunity as the lights went out in Las Vegas: Trump was campaigning Wednesday in Virginia, then on to Texas and Oklahoma. Rubio and Cruz both headed for Texas.
Entrance polls in Nevada captured the sentiment propelling Trump’s insurgent campaign: Six in 10 caucus goers said they were angry with the way the government is working, and Trump got about half of them.
Cruz, a fiery conservative popular among voters on the GOP’s right, had finished a disappointing third in South Carolina after spending much of the past two weeks denying charges of dishonest campaign tactics and defending his integrity. Nevada raises more questions about his viability.
On Wednesday, Cruz won the endorsement of the governor in his home state of Texas — Greg Abbott. Texas is the largest of the Super Tuesday states voting next week.
The election calendar suggests that if Trump’s rivals don’t slow him by mid-March, they may not ever.
Trump won 14 delegates in Nevada, while Rubio won seven and Cruz got six. John Kasich and Ben Carson each got one, with one delegate left to be allocated.
Overall, Trump has 81 delegates, and Cruz and Rubio have 17 apiece. Kasich has six and Carson has four. It takes 1,237 delegates to win the Republican nomination.
Super Tuesday offers 595 Republican delegates in 11 states, all awarded proportionally. It’s a huge night for Democrats, too, with contests in 11 states and American Samoa.
Trump, in his victory speech, took on the notion advanced by both Rubio and Cruz that if more GOP candidates drop out of the race, they’ll coalesce around an alternative.
“They keep forgetting that when people drop out, we’re going to get a lot of votes,” he said.
Nevada’s caucusing played out in schools, community centers and places of worship. Count Tracy Brigida, fed up after her husband was laid off from his mining job, among those caucusing for Trump.
“I want a businessman to run the biggest business in the world,” Brigida said as she caucused at a Las Vegas high school.
Jeremy Haight drove straight from his marketing job to caucus for Rubio at the same high school.
“He’s the most level-headed. He hasn’t said anything stupid or crazy … which is really what I think the country needs,” Haight said.
Preliminary results of the entrance poll found that about 3 in 10 early caucus goers said the quality that mattered most to them in choosing a candidate was that he shares their values, slightly more than the quarter who said they want a candidate who can win in November. About a quarter said they want a candidate who can bring change. About 2 in 10 want one who “tells it like it is.”
Trump — no surprise here — was supported by nearly 9 in 10 of the “tell it like it is” voters.
Lagging far behind in the Nevada vote were Kasich and Carson.
The entrance poll survey was conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks by Edison Research as Republican voters arrived at 25 randomly selected caucus sites.
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