Nevada Republicans gamble America’s future on Trump
Republicans had their turn to caucus for their candidate in Nevada, but the chaos that ensued delayed results from coming out for quite some time. Far more people than expected tried to get into caucus sites, generating widespread confusion as some people ran out of ballots, while others voted multiple times. In the end, businessman Donald Trump took his third contest in a row, garnering 45.9 percent of the vote.
Trump has taken command of the Republican field, especially after capturing every delegate in South Carolina. His frontrunner status has begun to wear down establishment opposition to his candidacy. On Wednesday, Representatives Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Chris Collins (R-NY) became the first sitting members of Congress to endorse Trump. On Friday, an endorsement from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie broke the narrative of Trump’s poor debate performance on Thursday.
Trump’s victory should be particularly disquieting to Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who finished with 21.4 percent of the vote. The Nevada caucus marks the second time in a row that Trump won the evangelical vote, a voting bloc that normally votes for the most conservative candidate. It seems like these conservative voters are turning to Trump’s ultimate anti-establishment campaign despite his less-than-consistent conservative record. Although Cruz leads in his home state of Texas, he definitely does not want a scenario akin to Newt Gingrich during the 2012 primary, who only won his home state of Georgia and South Carolina.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) finished ahead of Cruz with 23.9 percent of the vote. Despite former Florida governor Jeb Bush dropping out of the race and Ohio Governor John Kasich not even bothering with Nevada, Rubio has not managed to corral moderate Republicans looking for a pragmatic candidate who can win the November election. Although he had a strong debate performance against Trump, it seems unlikely to flock away from Trump based on that debate given the lack of such dropout following any of Trump’s debate performances.
As Super Tuesday approaches, Trump has a lead in almost all the states that will be up for grabs come March 1. His strong performance so far in the primaries has led some to consider him a strong candidate for the general election, chipping away at one of Rubio’s main points of contention. Helmut Norpoth, a political science professor at Stony Brook University, has used a statistical model that predicts Trump would have a 97 percent chance of winning the general election should he become the nominee. First reported in The Statesman, the model, which is based on primary results and patterns in the cycle, has matched the result of every presidential election since 1912, with the exception of the 1960 presidential election. In contrast, the model asserts that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would defeat Rubio and Cruz with 55 percent certainty, and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) would have a 40 percent shot to win against the Republican senators.
Norpoth’s prediction may change, but it does not look like Trump will go away soon. Perhaps a brokered convention may be the last option for the senators to try and overtake Trump, but wary voters may want to coaelsce around the frontrunner and avoid a protracted fight.