Trump Wins Nevada Caucuses, Collecting Third Consecutive Victory

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 8.09.57 AMALEXANDER BURNS

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Good Wednesday morning. Donald J. Trumps victory in the Nevada caucuses on Tuesday, for which The Times provided live coverage, gives him a seemingly daunting lead and leaves his rivals a consolation prize that may have no value.

Mr. Trump was declared the winner of the Nevada caucuses on Tuesday night, according to The Associated Press, gaining a third consecutive victory in an early-voting state and strengthening his position in the Republican presidential race before the wave of Super Tuesday elections on March 1.

Mr. Trump was seen as a favorite going into the contest, and his victory serves as a setback for his chief competitors, Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, who must now try to break Mr. Trump’s winning streak in the larger states that vote in the coming weeks.

In early returns, Mr. Trump held a lead of about 20 percentage points over his nearest challenger, Mr. Rubio, with Mr. Cruz trailing in third place. Turnout in Nevada was reported to be high compared with previous caucuses.

For Mr. Trump, the outcome in Nevada is another sign of his campaign’s durability and the breadth of his appeal: He has now handily won primary elections in New England and in the South, and a caucus fight in the far West. He won over independent voters in New Hampshire and evangelicals in South Carolina, and prevailed in Nevada, where Mormon voters and rural activists wield influence.

Mr. Trump said in his victory speech that he expected to consolidate his grip on the Republican Party as more of his competitors leave the race. He said he would compete hard in his rivals’ home states, and projected optimism that he could lock down the nomination quickly.

“It’s going to be an amazing two months,” Mr. Trump said. “We might not even need the two months, to be honest.”

The results are likely to reinforce the sense among national Republican leaders that only direct confrontation can block Mr. Trump from claiming the party’s nomination, because none of the party’s most powerful voting blocs seems likely to thwart him on its own.

Mr. Rubio has still finished no better than second in any nominating contest, but hope remains high among his supporters.

Mark Hutchison, Nevada’s Republican lieutenant governor and a top Rubio supporter in the state, insisted that the results had narrowed the race down to a clear choice between two candidates. “It’s now between Rubio and Trump,” he said, “and let’s find out what America wants.”