By Carla O’Day
Donald Trump’s campaign got a huge boost Tuesday as the New York businessman and reality-TV star won the Nevada Caucus, the final Republican contest before Super Tuesday.
Returns showed Trump leading U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas finished third. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Ohio Gov. John Kasich had fourth and fifth place showings.
News outlets used exit polls to call the race for Trump once caucus sites closed at 9 p.m. Trump was leading Rubio and Cruz by between 20 and 25 percentage points, respectively.
Nevada is the fourth state in the Republican presidential nominating process. Cruz won the Iowa Caucus, which was first. Trump then won the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries.
Trump thanked supporters and his campaign volunteers during a speech at Treasure Island Las Vegas. He hinted he was on his way to winning the GOP nomination.
“We love Nevada. This is a great place,” Trump said. “It’s going to be an amazing next two months and we might not even need two months.”
Some caucus goers at Hidden Valley Elementary School in southeast Reno discussed their preferred candidates.
Kathy Weist, 73, said she supported Trump.
“He says it the way it is and he better take care of business when he gets in, if he gets in,” said Weist, a restaurant co-owner. “He isn’t scared of anybody or anything.”
Robert Forgette, 57, backed Rubio.
“I think he’ll have the ability to beat the Democrat he’ll be going up against and have the ability to work with others in both parties and bring the parties together,” said Forgette, a business manager.
Wayne Gordon, 68, caucused for Cruz.
“I like Cruz because he knows the Constitution,” said Gordon, a retired shipyard worker and bridge teacher. “We’ve gotten so far away from the Constitution. He’s trying to push us back toward what is constitutional.”
HOW IT WORKS
During the Republican caucus, people gathered by precinct and cast paper ballots. Voters could’ve left after casting their ballot, but others stuck around to discuss preferences of various candidates.
Ballots are then hand counted and delegates to the county convention elected. Electronic voting machines aren’t used.
The Republican National Committee has assigned Nevada 30 delegates to the national convention, which is scheduled in July in Cleveland.
The next contests are March 1, known as Super Tuesday. Primaries are scheduled in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia. Alaska and Colorado also hold caucuses.
Nevada Democrats caucused Saturday. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prevailed over U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.