Exit polls indicate a sweep of virtually every demographic in Nevada
Donald Trump, the billionaire reality TV star, triumphed in the Nevada caucuses on Tuesday, in a stunning win that cemented his position as the Republican presidential frontrunner with a lead that could soon be insurmountable.
The businessman has now won three of the four early nominating states, after similarly convincing wins in South Carolina and New Hampshire.
The Nevada result was called at 9:02pm local time by the Associated Press. By 10pm, with around one in ten precincts reporting, Trump had a remarkable 44.5% of the vote.
Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, the two senators best-placed to challenge Trump, were still battling it out for second place, with both candidates hovering above 20%.
However, the race for second place was overshadowed by the magnitude of Trump’s victory, which exit polls indicated was predicated upon a sweep of virtually every single demographic in the state.
At his Las Vegas victory party at the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino, Trump emphasized the breadth of his support. “We won the evangelicals. We won with young. We won with old. We won with highly educated. We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated. We’re the smartest people, we’re the most loyal people.”
He got the loudest applause when he pointed out exit polls that indicated he won close to half the Latino vote. The poll, based on CNN exit data, was based on a small sample of Latino voters, but it was nonetheless a surprising figure for a candidate who has called Mexicans “rapists” and “criminals”.
“Number one with Hispanics,” Trump said. “I’m really happy about that.”
The Republicans now look ahead to Super Tuesday on 1 March, when 11 states are due to hold contests and could have a decisive impact on the Republican nomination for the White House.
Trump appears to have a lead in all the states in which recent surveys are available, except Arkansas and Texas, Cruz’s home state. In a sign of the breadth of his support, Trump is ahead of the pack in deeply conservative Alabama, Georgia and Alaska, as well as Democratic-leaning Minnesota.
In Massachusetts, Trump also leads by 50 percentage points, according to a recent poll that put Rubio at 16%.
The results came after chaotic scenes at caucus sites across Nevada, with some reports of double voting, and others of caucus volunteers – those who distribute and count the ballots – wearing official Donald Trump apparel. The Nevada GOP said it was “not against the rules” for volunteers to wear candidate hats and T-shirts.
There were also reports of voter registration mistakes at some sites, and long queues at others that may have been struggling with high turnout.
Both Cruz and Rubio needed a win in Nevada to gain the momentum required to mount a meaningful challenge to Trump, who has confounded the political establishment with a presidential campaign that some are equating to outright demagoguery.
At an eve-of-caucus campaign rally in Las Vegas on Monday, one of Trump’s most extraordinary to date, the businessman lampooned Cruz as “sick” and reacted to a heckler by saying: “I’d like to punch him in the face.”
Although the Republican race is still at an early phase and Trump is a long way off from the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the party’s nomination, he is now the clear frontrunner.