February 24, 2016
The Donald won big. Commentators are now positive he has the nomination locked up. He’s unmistakably in great shape. Let’s wait another 7 days or so before we give him the big trophy.
As in South Carolina, Trump won across the board. Entrance polls indicate Marco Rubio may have bested him with the 7% of the caucus electorate between 18 and 29 years of age. Otherwise it was a clean sweep.
After declaring for months “the Hispanics love me,” Trump accepted a giant bear hug from Nevada Latinos. He apparently got just as much support from them as the white voters who are supposed to prefer him.
When Bernie’s entrance numbers looked good the other day, Hillary’s campaign claimed they were inaccurate. Her team pointed to Clinton’s results in heavily Hispanic precincts to show her strong showing didn’t match the data pulled from a limited number of interviews.
In this case, there’s less doubt. Entrance polling is still sketchy, but Trump won just as easily in precincts with a more diverse electorate. Where estimates had Bernie a little ahead of Hillary, these had Trump gaining as much support as Rubio and Ted Cruz combined.
It’s hard to interpret this as anything other than proof he can get Hispanic Republicans to vote for him. This is not surprising. Polls in Florida already indicated a similar trend. In January, Trump ran ahead of Rubio on his own turf with Latinos. This just shows that wasn’t a fluke.
As with African Americans, people treat Hispanics as a monolithic voting block. Once you get above a few hundred voters (in this case many millions), that gets very dicey. As we’ve seen on the Democratic side, age, gender, income, and all sorts of other factors matter too.
Latino Democrats hate Trump. Republicans do not. If you think about it for a millisecond, this makes sense. There are more than a few Hispanic business owners. It appears small and medium sized business owners of any ethnicity are flocking to The Donald.
The minute you need to start covering a payroll, you have more in common with others who share that responsibility than some of your ethnic or gender brethren who deposit paychecks.
It’s a mistake to group all Latinos together regardless of which country/countries they hail from. It’s a mistake to think someone with undocumented parents feels the same way as someone who’s great grandparents got to America decades before my family did.
The majority of Hispanics are Democrats, but not by the same margin as African Americans. If a Republican candidate can capture the majority of Latino Republicans and GOP leaning Independents, the math works just fine in November.
Nevadans sent a signal to Trump’s Republican opponents, as well as Hillary Clinton. Anyone assuming The Donald will fail to connect with conservative Latinos is being a bit wishful in their thinking. A Hispanic Republican has already shown willingness to ignore convention. Voting for Trump isn’t that big a step beyond.
With that covered, time to point out the caucus format did not hurt Trump’s turnout. When I was estimating the result, it looked like polling + momentum would put him in the mid-40s. After taking a deduction for the caucus format and inability to accept same-day registration, I figured he’d wind up just under 40%.
Wrong. He did at least as well as the polls indicated. This means either he’s now potentially caucus proof, or he would have earned more than 50% in a primary. Either is possible, neither is a good sign for his opponents.
Again, this is a signal for November as well. Nevada is a mildly Democratic leaning swing state. It’s voted for the winner in every election except 1976. It’s a key Obama Coalition state, with plenty of Latinos, some African Americans, lots of Millennials, single women, etc.
In 2008, three times as many Democrats as Republicans participated in the caucus. Barack Obama lost to Hillary Clinton, but earned more support than all the Republican candidates combined.
This time, turnout was almost even in the two caucuses. Donald Trump got almost as many votes on his own as Hillary did. If 2008 is any indication, there is a direct link between primary/caucus turnout and the results in November. Republicans have now set records in 4 straight contests. Trump is a big part of this.
Democrats are not going to lose Nevada and win the general election. Plenty can happen between now and then, but Hillary is lucky the vote wasn’t yesterday.
If it took the considerable organizing effort of local unions and Democratic establishment organizations to equal the turnout of a haphazard inconvenient Republican caucus, the GOP has the edge.
What about the rest of our contestants?
John Kasich looks like a spoiler when he finishes fifth with less than 4% of the vote. He’s polling decently in places like Michigan and Illinois, but it cuts into Rubio’s support. While he may not cost Marco any Super Tuesday victories, the pressure on him will intensify after March 1.
If Rubio wins a couple/few states on Super Tuesday, Kasich has a poor argument to make that he’s the best anti-Trump. The reason he’s sticking around is in case Marco gets blanked. If Trump runs the table on March 1, he’d have a commanding lead but a ways to go on delegate accumulation.
The odds of Cruz and Rubio rallying around Kasich are horribly slim, but that’s the scenario where he’s viable.
Ben Carson has a week left in his campaign. No point exiting before March 1 when he’s already spent significant time in some of those states, but that’s the end of the road. He managed to stay out of the cellar in Nevada, but didn’t even break 5%.
The next debate and his final chance to make a verbal impact is tomorrow. Look for any clues that he’s favoring a particular candidate. If he were to drop out on March 2 and endorse Rubio, that would actually make a bit of a difference.
On the other hand, he could endorse Trump, which would set up the sort of insiders v. outsiders battle The Donald would relish.
This is a potential problem for Rubio. Already, he picked up scads of endorsements from elected officials the minute South Carolina and Jeb! ended. Support is great, but in this case is likely detrimental/counterproductive. We know the majority of the GOP primary electorate does not like Washington D.C.
Anti-D.C. candidates pulled over 70% of the vote in Nevada, north of 60% in South Carolina. If Marco is in the middle, with the outsiders on one side and the establishment on the other, he can play party unifier. If he’s the Great Establishment Hope, the math is far less favorable.
Having Kasich around provides the opportunity to act as a middle ground, but having Orrin Hatch and his fellow geriatric Republicans sign up with Rubio pulls this away. Trump is very aware of this dynamic and is ready to exploit it.
Ted Cruz suffered a devastating result. Having Trump double Rubio’s support is the only thing to provide him any solace. If the result was closer to the 39/29 split I projected, Marco would have “won” another second place finish.
Not this time. Both look like pygmies standing next to a towering Trump. Cruz could have explained/justified close second place finishes in South Carolina and Nevada. Though both states were good opportunities for him, that’s true for Rubio too.
Ted’s speech from last night, where he argued he was the only candidate who could compete with Trump, would have actually made sense under that scenario. Claiming you are the only challenger after losing to Rubio twice in a row is another matter.
In the Palmetto State, his evangelical firewall collapsed. In Nevada, his caucus state organizing advantage evaporated. Either that, or he needed that powerful ground game just to barely clear 20%.
Cruz now needs to lock down his messaging, prepare for his last-chance debate, and try to fire up the troops, all without his recently deposed communications director.
Tomorrow’s debate is in Houston, but for Cruz it must feel like the Alamo is more appropriate.