Donald Trump, who was seen as a favorite going into the Nevada caucuses, has won the state by a wide margin. Gaining 45,9 percent of the vote, the state marked the first primary contest in which Mr Trump won considerably more than one third of the vote, a number which many commentators had long regarded as his natural ceiling due too his large unfavorable ratings.
The question now is whether he will be able to carry the momentum from his streak of three consecutive primary wins into Super Tuesday when a large number of delegates is allocated. After winning 14 delegates in Nevada, Mr Trump has now won total of 81 with 1,237 needed to win nomination.
What works in Trump’s favor:
- Momentum: Winning three primaries so early in the contest is no small feat. It is very clear by now that Mr Trump is a serous contender, capable of not only commanding the polls, but also of turning out voters.
- Cruz is unlikely to drop out any time soon: With the biggest war chests of all candidates Ted Cruz seems determined to keep going and will likely continue to split the non-Trump vote with Marco Rubio. Not beholden to the GOP establishment there is very little that party leaders can do to convince Cruz to reconsider.
- Bush dropping out didn’t hurt Trump. When Jeb Bush announced that he would suspend his campaign, many assumed that his votes would go directly to Marco Rubio. But while Mr Rubio was able to secure a respectable 2nd place finish, coming in just ahead of Ted Cruz (21.4%) with 23.9% of the vote, he and Cruz both were still crushed by Mr Trump in a landslide.
- Trump is leading in most races that are coming up on Super Tuesday. Looking forward there are few thing that indicate an end to Trump’s winning spree.
What could still stop him from becoming the nominee?
- Ted Cruz does drops out after Super Tuesday. The only way this would happen was if he lost decisively to Marco Rubio in almost all states. And even then it is not at all clear that Mr Cruz’s voter would immediately sign on to camp Rubio. But given Mr Trump’s controversial relationship with religion, and his lacking seriousness, it is likely that the kind of conservatives that are now firmly backing the Texas senator would prefer Rubio over Trump. Rubio could then tackle the project of collecting the 1237 delegates.
- His support could be smaller than the results in Nevada suggest. Nevada is a caucus state, the mode of voting complicated. While turnout was huge compared to past elections, still only 75,000 voters participated in a state of over 3 Million. Trump’s commanding lead could well be much smaller than the Nevada results show. If this were the case, Marco Rubio could start winning states even with Ted Cruz staying in the race, once Mr Kasich (3.6%) who is the only other moderate left, decides to call it quits or runs out of money.
- Another possibility is that the battle for the nomination remains a three way battle all the way to the Republican convention in July. If none of the candidates manages to reach the 1237 delegates by then, there could be a brokered convention and party leaders, delegates, and former candidates will hash out who will be the nominee. The last time this has happened in the the Republican party was in 1948, before the era of primary elections when Thomas E. Dewey was anointed candidate. he ultimately lost his bid to Harry S. Truman.