Donald Trump continues his line of victories with a first place finish in Nevada. As I predicted yesterday, Trump finished a good 22 points above his closest rival, with almost 46% of the total vote.
The fact that Trump broke out of his normal 35% ceiling could be significant if it shows that he is not limited to about one-third of Republican voters. But as I said before, Nevada is not a good measure of voter sentiment. Because of the Nevada Caucus having very burdensome rules to participate, many people do not. Therefore, results here are often the result of a campaign's ability to turn out hard core supporters. As a local casino owners, Trump had many pre-existing contacts and allies to help him last night. Therefore, I think his success exceeds his actual popularity within the State.
The other interesting story is the fall of Cruz. A close third behind Rubio is a disappointing result for Cruz whose campaign showed organizational mastery of Caucuses in Iowa. The campaign seems to be floundering. If Cruz cannot win his home State of Texas next week on Super Tuesday, it should be game over for him. At present, Cruz seems to be doing well in Texas polls. A win there could keep his campaign alive.
Rubio seems to be the anti-Trump default choice now. But with the anemic support of under 24% in Nevada, he is still looking weak. Like Cruz, Rubio's home State is coming up fast on the calendar. Florida is a March 15 winner-take-all race. Unlike Cruz, Rubio is currently polling below Trump in his home State. Florida, full of lots of elderly and working class whites, is fertile territory for Trump. If Trump beats Rubio in Florida, that may seal the nomination for Trump and knock out Rubio.
Carson and Kasich were both"also rans" with less than 5% each. Kasich is pinning his hope on a Michigan win on Super Tuesday to keep himself alive, followed by his home State of Ohio on March 15. Failure to win either of those States should be the end of his campaign. Carson? well my theory is that he is still running because he has nothing better to do.
The other interesting point ignored by most pundits about the caucus is the level of turn out. In 2012, just under 32,000 Nevada Republican participated. This year, that number more than doubled to about 75,000. Trump alone received more votes that 100% participants four years earlier. Rubio's distant second received more total votes than Romney's majority win at the 2012 Caucus. Part of the larger turn out may be due to the fact that the race is still more competitive than it may have been four years ago. Part of it is also probably due to more campaigns working harder to turn out supporters. But it also may be that Trump really is bringing in many more new voters who would have otherwise stayed home.
Trump's position seems to look stronger every day. He is not yet inevitable given his high negatives. An expected solid Super Tuesday win will bring him much closer to that inevitability. I never thought I would say this, but Trump remains the odds on favorite.