Trump's third straight win has rivals looking for answers
Updated: 2016-02-24 16:47
Supporters of Donald Trump celebrate after Trump was declared the winner of the Nevada Republican caucuses by the television networks.[Photo/Agencies]
Rubio, who has emerged as the Republican establishment's favorite to derail Trump's progress, can take some solace in finishing second. But that also has to be viewed as somewhat of a setback considering that he had frequently campaigned in Nevada, having lived there for years as a child. A Cuban-American, he had attempted to rally the support of the state's large Latino population.
Rubio had also benefitted from the departure Saturday of Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, from the race. That brought an influx of new funds, a bevy of endorsements, and a wealth of media attention. But none of it was enough to overtake Trump.
As for Cruz, he is facing mounting questions about the viability of his campaign. After Cruz's Iowa win, Trump has made serious inroads among his core base of conservative supporters, draining anti-government hardliners and evangelicals.
Cruz attempted to appeal to Nevada's fierce libertarian wing, appealing directly to those who supported local rancher Cliven Bundy's armed protest against the federal government in 2014 and a similar more recent one staged by Bundy's sons at a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon. But that, too, was not enough.
The upcoming March 1 primary in his home state of Texas is looming as a make-or-break moment for him.
Despite early reports on social media of procedural irregularities at many Nevada caucus sites, the Republican National Committee and the party's state chapter said voting ran smoothly. Higher-than-normal turnout was reported, although historically, few of the state's citizens participate in the Republican caucus.
Nevada's contest had been viewed as a test of whether Trump had organizational might to match his star power. Unlike primaries, caucuses are more dependent on the abilities of campaigns to motivate supporters to participate. Trump's failure to do that in Iowa was viewed as contributing to his defeat there.
He had no such problems in Nevada. And he is expected to win the bulk of Nevada's 30 delegates, That would give him more than 80 before February ends, dwarfing the tallies of Cruz and Rubio.
While more than 1,200 are needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination, Trump has built a formidable head start.
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