Donald Trump has won the Nevada Republican caucuses, giving the billionaire his major third victory in two weeks and a huge surge of momentum heading into Super Tuesday.
Early returns from the Tuesday evening caucuses showed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio battling for second-place. With 20 percent of votes in, Rubio was leading Cruz 24.4 percent to 19.7 percent.
But it was Trump who towered above his two top competitors, nearly doubling the support of his nearest competitor with 46 percent of the vote.
"If you listen to the pundits, we weren't expected to win too much, and now we're winning, winning, winning," Trump declared shortly after returns came in. "And pretty soon the country is going to start winning, winning, winning."
The real estate mogul, whose name adorns a glistening gold hotel along the Las Vegas Strip, was the heavy favorite heading into the Silver State vote. His win follows triumphs in New Hampshire and South Carolina. No candidate who has won both those states has not gone on to be the GOP nominee.
Trump already had his eye on the calendar ahead, boasting as he declared victory that he was creeping up in the polls in Texas, which votes in next week's Super Tuesday contest, a not-so-subtle dig at top rival Cruz. And he noted he's leading surveys in March 15 contests in Florida — Rubio's territory — and in Ohio, topping Gov. John Kasich.
Entrance polls showed the Nevada electorate was angry and hungry for an outsider. Fifty-eight percent of caucus-goers said they were angry with the federal government, much higher than in Iowa (42 percent), South Carolina (40 percent) or New Hampshire (39 percent.)
Sixty-one percent said they wanted someone in the White House from outside the political establishment, while just 33 percent backed someone with government experience. In the three previous states, voters were more evenly split.
Many reporters at the caucuses were sending reports of confusion and chaos at caucus sites, including IDs not being checked, multiple ballots being given out and some site workers wearing shirts supporting Trump. The Nevada Republican Party tweeted that there were "no official reports of voting irregularities or violations" and that volunteers were permitted to wear candidate gear.
At stake are 30 delegates, who are awarded both proportionally based on the at-large statewide vote and by who wins the state's four congressional districts.
You won’t find a paywall here. Come as often as you like — we’re not counting. You’ve found a like-minded tribe that cherishes what a free press stands for. If you can spend another couple of minutes making a pledge of as little as $5, you’ll feel like a superhero defending democracy for less than the cost of a month of Netflix.