Billionaire Donald Trump won another state in his bid to become the Republican nominee for president with a decisive victory Tuesday in the western U.S. state of Nevada.
Final results showed Trump with 46 percent of the vote, far ahead of Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s 24 percent. Texas Senator Ted Cruz finished in third place with 21 percent.
Trump’s win is his third straight victory after taking primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina earlier this month. It also gives him momentum going into an important week in the campaign with a dozen states voting on March 1.
Trump gave a victory speech, saying that despite pundits predicting his campaign would not go far, he is now «winning the country.» He also said that when more Republicans drop out, he will pick up a lot of their supporters.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives thumbs up as he visits a caucus site, Feb. 23, 2016.
Rubio and Cruz are looking toward the so-called Super Tuesday group of contests to boost their campaigns and reel in Trump, who has led national polls for months.
After March 1, more than 700 delegates will have been awarded, nearly one-third of the Republican total. A candidate needs at least 1,237 to clinch the party’s nomination and go on to the general election in November.
Cruz won the first nominating contest in the state of Iowa, and told his supporters after the Nevada caucus he is the only candidate who has and can beat Trump.
Retired surgeon Ben Carson and Ohio Governor John Kasich were far behind, as expected from pre-vote polls.
Shrinking field thought to benefit Rubio
One-time favorite Jeb Bush dropped out of the race following a poor showing in the South Carolina primary, while Kasich and Carson have continued on.
Supporters cheer during a caucus night rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, Feb. 23, 2016.
The diminished field of candidates potentially benefits Rubio, who has received a number of party endorsements in the days leading up to the caucus, including the backing of former Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole.
Cruz had a difficult week ahead of the caucus, losing the evangelical vote to Trump in South Carolina and facing accusations that his campaign plays dirty tricks on his opponents.
Cruz had to fire the public face of his campaign, communications manager Rick Tyler, for social media posts falsely alleging Rubio mocked the Bible.
Cruz doubled down on his approach to illegal immigration Monday when he said he would send federal agents to arrest undocumented immigrants.
“It’s an attempt to show that he is tougher than Trump and more willing to crack down,” said Matt Dallek, an assistant professor at The George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.
Nevada is a multiethnic state, but the historically low turnout of caucusgoers tends to skew heavily for white voters.
Despite the predicted low turnout, Dallek said Tuesday’s results will have far-reaching implications if Trump ends up as the winner.
“The question becomes, where can he be stopped? Where is he deprived of a victory – or multiple victories – and who will do the stopping?”