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July 28, 2016

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Blog: With Nevada win, Trump has trifecta; Rubio edges Cruz for second

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L.E. Baskow

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump thanks supporters at Treasure Island on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016, after winning the Nevada caucuses.

Updated Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016 | 5:15 a.m.

Donald Trump is on a winning streak.

As expected, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination was a runaway winner tonight in the Nevada caucuses, according to projections by the Associated Press and others.

Trump now has three straight victories — in the West, the South and Northeast — a testament to his broad appeal among the mad-as-hell voters making their voices heard in the 2016 presidential race.

Trump won 46 percent of the vote. Rubio was second at 24 percent and Cruz in third at 21 percent. Ben Carson garnered 5 percent of the vote, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich took 4 percent.

Republican Caucus at Western High School

Volunteer Calvin Border counts ballots Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016, at the Western High School Republican caucus site. Launch slideshow »

Six in 10 caucus goers said they were angry with the way the government is working, and Trump got about half of those angry voters, according to preliminary results of an entrance poll.

Nevada was a critical test for Rubio and Cruz, the two senators battling to emerge as the clear alternative to the GOP front-runner. Rubio was out to prove he can build on recent momentum, while Cruz was looking for a spark to recover from a particularly rocky stretch in his campaign.

Rubio, already campaigning in Michigan as caucus results rolled in, was projecting confidence that he can consolidate the non-Trump voters who have been splintering among an assortment of GOP candidates, saying, "we have incredible room to grow."

Cruz, a fiery conservative popular among voters on the GOP's right, finished a disappointing third in South Carolina after spending much of the past two weeks denying charges of dishonest campaign tactics and defending his integrity. Another disappointing finish in Nevada would raise new questions about his viability heading into a crucial batch of Super Tuesday states on March 1.

"There's something wrong with this guy," Trump said with his usual measure of tact during a massive Las Vegas rally Monday night. The former reality television star tweeted on Tuesday, "He used him as a scape goat-fired like a dog! Ted panicked."

A CNN entrance poll showed that Trump dominated in almost every category.

One notable exception is that Rubio fared best with voters 17 to 29 years old, holding 39 percent of their support compared to Trump’s 28 percent. Forty percent of voters also thought Cruz was the candidate who most shared their values, compared to 20 percent for Trump.

Rubio also was considered the most experienced of the Republican candidates in politics by 57 percent of voters.

Nevada's caucusing played out in schools, community centers and places of worship across the state — a process that's been chaotic in the past.

10:05 p.m. The crowd at Trump's victory speech at Treasure Island included the resort's owner, Phil Ruffin, a close friend of Trump, and Steve Wynn. Trump acknowledged them both, along with their families.

Trump joked that when he rebuffed an offer of campaign money from Ruffin, it went against his nature. He said he'd spent his life grabbing all the money he could. But after his overpowering victory in Nevada — his third straight win — he said he was going to "get greedy" for states.

"We're going to grab and grab and grab," he said."

"Now, we're going to get greedy for the United States," he said.

Trump steered mostly clear of policies and positions, merely reiterating his often-stated vision of building a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border and somehow compelling Mexico to pay for it.

"Believe me, I'll talk to them, (and) they'll be very thrilled to build the wall," he said.

Hours after President Obama announced that he would try to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility before he left office, Trump told supporters he would keep it open as president.

"We're going to load it up with a lot of bad dudes out there," he said.

9:59 p.m. In his victory speech, Trump said he won handily among Hispanics, evangelicals and highly educated voters — groups that, according to pundits, didn't support him.

"A couple of months ago, we weren't expected to win this one," he said. "Of course, if you listened to the pundits we weren't expected to win too much, and now we're winning, winning, winning."

Trump also said he was polling well in a host of Super Tuesday states — Tennessee, Texas, Georgia and Alabama among them.

"It's going to be an amazing two months," he said. "We might not even need the two months (to capture the nomination)."

9:04 p.m. The crowd at Ted Cruz's campaign headquarters at the YMCA in Las Vegas expressed its displeasure by loudly booing as Fox News predicted Trump the winner of the Nevada Republican caucuses.

Cruz supporters at his headquarters say they think it will be a "long shot" for the senator from Texas to beat out Trump as the Republican nominee.

"It's hard to say at this point," said Nick Giovanni, 60, a Las Vegan who likes Cruz for his "sharp knowledge of American law."

"If Cruz has got any shot, it's because he's anti-establishment," added Jenny Harrison, 65.

9 p.m. At a ballroom at Treasure Island, Trump supporters counted down the 10 seconds just before the caucuses officially closed at 9 p.m. Almost instantaneously, CNN called the election for Trump on TV monitors in the room.

The crowd erupted in wild cheers and applause, chanting “Trump, Trump, Trump.”

8:45 p.m. With 15 minutes to go until the caucuses officially close and results start rolling in, the couple hundred Trump supporters gathered in a ballroom at Treasure Island were already excited about their candidate’s chances of winning.

Televisions in the room were live-streaming unofficial results from individual caucus sites from CNN and Fox. When a caucus site showed Trump winning, the crowd erupted in wild cheers.

8:20 p.m. At Coronado High, ballots have been delivered and are being passed out after the caucus site had run out. There are 10 minutes until votes will start to be counted.

8:13 p.m. The sites had barely been opened when caucus-goers began reporting a slew of problems. Sites were running out of ballots. IDs weren't being checked. There were irregularities in the caucusing process. Precinct volunteers were wearing clothing promoting individual candidates.

In response, the Nevada Republican Party tweeted that there had been no reports of voting irregularities or violations. However, the Associated Press reported that the Republican National Committee acknowledged that there had been double voting in one part of one caucus site.

Responding to complaints about volunteers' clothing, the state GOP said: "It's not against the rules for volunteers to wear candidate gear. Volunteers went through extensive training & are doing a great job."

In addition, the state party sent out an email containing text of tweets that went out during Saturday's Democratic caucus from individuals complaining about long lines, disorganization and irregularities in the process.

8:05 p.m. The caucus site at Coronado High is officially out of ballots, according to volunteer Dan Blanton.

Right now there are only a handful of people waiting to vote, but some volunteers are angry.

"I think its deplorable," said Ellie Reichel, a precinct captain. "Who is running the show?"

According to Blanton, the county party is on its way to deliver more.

8 p.m. The hallways at Valley High School have quieted considerably as the final voters wander in and volunteers patiently wait for 8:30 p.m. That's when voting ends and counting begins.

About 10,000 registered Republicans live in precincts reporting to this caucus site. Officials said they were expecting 1,500 to 2,000 caucus-goers to participate here this evening, but it's too soon to tell whether that projection held true.

The site manager, who was asked Monday to take the volunteer leadership role, said it's unclear why the school moved the caucus to classrooms rather than having it in the large, airy cafeteria. The situation led to confusion earlier as caucus-goers tried to find their precinct rooms.

"Given the chaos, I think (the volunteers) have done an awesome job," the site manager said.

7:55 p.m. A couple of people in Ku Klux Klan-style garb and with signs identifying themselves as Trump supporters showed up at Cimarron-Memorial High School for about an hour while caucus participants lined up, student volunteers said.

Nevada Democratic state Sen. Aaron Ford posted photos of the two on Twitter.

“I’ll admit, I’m boiling right now,” said Ford, who wrote the photos came from a friend.

Police asked them to leave, but it wasn't until a school administrator intervened that they were kicked off school grounds.

Clark County School Police officers at the school said they could not comment or confirm the reports.

7:35 p.m. The Republican National Committee says it is concerned about reports of double voting at a troubled caucus site in Las Vegas.

RNC spokesman Fred Brown acknowledges there have been reports tonight of double voting, long lines and not enough ballots at Palo Verde High School. Some people were being turned away and directed to another location.

Candidate Donald Trump stopped by the school as part of his last-minute campaigning.

Brown says the double-voting problem appears to be limited to one part of a caucus site where different precincts have been combined. The party plans to compare the number of paper ballots cast to the sign-in sheet to determine whether any double voting actually occurred.

7:30 p.m. At Durango High School, the last handful of people are checking in as people sit around in groups at their tables and discuss the candidates before casting their presidential preference polls. Some precincts have moved on to choosing delegates to send to the county convention.

7:25 p.m. Iowa Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox was making the hard sell for Marco Rubio to Precinct 1623 at Durango High.

“Ted Cruz is a little tiny bit more conservative than Rubio,” Cox told the group, while running through a list of comparisons between the senators.

On Rubio missing votes in the Senate, Cox told the precinct that it’s because Rubio believes the Senate is “fundamentally broken” and realizes there is nothing he can do.

Of those caucusing, two were already supporting Rubio. The rest were Cruz supporters and unmoved by the lieutenant governor’s message.

Republican Caucus at Western High School

Volunteer Calvin Border counts ballots Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016, at the Western High School Republican caucus site. Launch slideshow »

7:12 p.m. The initial rush is over at Coronado High School in Henderson, but that hasn't stopped many voters from feeling frustrated by the process.

"It took at least an hour to even get in here," said Robert Mashas, who leans toward candidate John Kasich. "I thought there would be more caucusing."

Many here came undecided and under the impression they could caucus, but county GOP rules this year allow people to vote and leave. Most people have chosen to do so.

6:35 p.m. Tensions ran high inside a choir room at Valley High School, where site leaders apologized for disorganization and tried to diffuse any confusion. Several caucus-goers, however, voiced frustration about the process: They anticipated engaging in conversations about the candidates before voting but said they were instructed to vote upon arrival.

"I was on the fence between two candidates," said Cheri Rasmussen, a caucus-goer at the central valley school. "If we had caucused first, I could have made more of an intelligent decision."

Instead, Rasmussen said she was told to vote first amid all the confusion.

Another caucus-goer, Timothy Miller, summed up his experience this way: "It's time for a primary."

6:20 p.m. Though it was supposed to begin 15 minutes ago, caucusing at Coronado High School in Henderson is stalled as staffers work to handle the sheer number of participants.

People have pulled up chairs in every corner of the cafeteria as precinct volunteers record votes at a slow pace. Some precincts only have one volunteer, causing significant lines that snake their way around the tables.

The confusion has frustrated a number of voters, many of whom are first time caucusers.

Assistance has been “very little,” according to Sonia Anderson, a first-time caucuser.

“We thought there was going to be discussion,” she said, and ended up leaving early with her husband.

6:15 p.m. For the most part, GOP caucusgoers are patiently waiting at Durango High School, although they say they haven’t received much direction about what to do.

About 100 people are still waiting outside to be let into the cafeteria. About 200 more are waiting in line to be checked into their precincts, and 100 are waiting at the precinct tables for the discussions about candidates and delegate selections.

But apart from a few crying children, most people appear in good spirits. Those who want to stay are, and those who don’t want to wait are casting their ballots and leaving.

No formal discussions of candidates have happened yet, though caucusgoers are chatting with the other people at their precinct tables informally about their favorite candidates.

6:07 p.m. About half of caucusgoers at Western High School are walking in, caucusing and leaving.

Benny Thomas, 37, caucused for Donald Trump. Wearing a blue T-shirt with a cartoon of Trump’s face that said “Washington D.C., you’re fired,” Thomas said he was confident in his decision to caucus for Trump, and that his mind was “pretty much” made up before he walked into Western’s caucusing site.

“I’m confident in Trump, that’s who I was planning on,” Thomas, a musician, said. “I would have been open to listening to what other people say though.”

The other half, like Katy Martin, 44, stayed at the caucus site, chatting with other caucusgoers from her precinct.

Deciding between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, Martin said her 20-minute conversation inside the caucusing site helped her learn more about what each candidate stands for. She decided to caucus for Rubio.

“I’m glad I stayed,” Martin said. “I feel at least a little more educated now.”

6:04 p.m. Nearly an hour into the caucus, harried voters wandered the congested hallways at Valley High School trying to find the room where delegate selection would occur. No one seemed to have a definitive answer.

"It's crazy," said Angelique Corrente, who had cast her vote for Cruz. "Nobody knows what's going on. They always send you somewhere else."

5:55 p.m.It’s a full house at Precinct 6736 with seven voters huddled around the table: three are for Cruz, three are for Trump and one is for Carson.

All three of the Trump supporters said they planned to stick around to try and sway some of the other people at their precinct.

“We feel passionate about our candidate,” said Christina Stimson, 62.

Stimson, a missionary doctor there with her service dog, said that she was supporting Trump because she was “not looking for a pastor-in-chief, someone who can recite the Bible to me.” She likes that Trump is self-funding his campaign and says that he’ll get the job done.

Another Trump supporter, 50-year-old Chris Fazendin said no other candidate had moved him to such a degree. Fazendin, a union plumber and pipe fitter, says he gets a lot of flack on his local union’s Facebook page for his comments in support of Trump.

Two UNLV students, Reem Patros, 23, and her brother Michael, 18, were voting for Rubio, but didn’t know that they didn’t have to stick around for all of the proceedings. Shortly after an interview with a reporter, they got up, cast their ballots and left.

Patros said she was supporting Rubio because his background was similar to hers, the son of immigrant parents.

“Our parents are Iraqi Christians who immigrated here,” Patros said. “Why work so hard to immigrate to this country and be persecuted for your faith?"

5:48 p.m. Minutes ahead of schedule, Ben Carson made an appearance at Coronado High. With a bodyguard contingent in tow, he weaved between precinct tables as people crowded around him, desperate to shake his hand and get a selfie.

Two women held up signs and walked in Carson's wake, beseeching nearby voters to vote for him before it was too late.

"Do you think he would put anybody but the best in his operating room!" Yelled one woman. "He'll do the same in the White House."

5:38 p.m. The first caucusgoers are let into Western High School just after 5:25 p.m.

With a line extending over 1,000 feet, beyond the parking lot and onto the sidewalk at Decatur Boulevard, people make their way inside, one by one.

Just minutes before, tensions had been rising. A man approached the door, asking volunteer staff on site how long they were going to “make people with disabilities wait outside.”

5:32 p.m. A table in the middle of a Durango High School cafeteria with a blue tablecloth is Precinct No. 1621.

Trump Rallies at South Point

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the South Point Arena & Equestrian Center, Monday, February 22, 2016. Launch slideshow »

Of the three people sitting there, two are Ted Cruz supporters and one is for Donald Trump.

Jared Humphries, who works at one of the convention centers in town, says he has previously been a delegate to the state convention, so he wants to stick around to potentially be his precinct’s representative. Humphries said he supports Cruz because he’s a fiscal conservative.

“It seems like he wants to do good for America,” Humphries said. “Most of us are tired of this huge debt the country has.”

Marvin Wear, a Navy veteran of 25 years, said he decided to stick around after meeting Humphries, even though they’ve only been friends for five minutes. He said he is also supporting Cruz because of one reason — Cruz wants to abolish the IRS.

“Ted Cruz said vote for me and I’ll abolish the IRS,” Wear said. “That’s it. That’s all I want.”

Shelly Stamp, a school administrator, said that she plans to vote for Trump.

“I’m one of those that’s just tired of politics as usual,” Stamp said.

Sitting at her precinct table, she said she didn’t know there was an option to just cast your ballot and leave, but she plans to stay now to see the political process play out.

5:29 p.m. At least 500 people wait outside the doors at Western High School, more than 15 minutes after caucus registration was set to begin.

“This is ridiculous,” says a woman volunteer at the door.

The volunteers claimed they’re understaffed while buzz on the outside grows louder. A couple of shivering caucusgoers have walked back to their car and close themselves inside.

Volunteers fear that some people might leave before caucusing, opting not to wait in the cold.

“I don’t get it, what’s the problem?” the woman asks.

5:27 p.m. At Coronado High School in Henderson, everything went smoothly up to the start of the caucus at 5 p.m. The only hiccup has been logging into the wifi, said site captain Karen Illes.

“So far so good,” said Christina Davis, a volunteer who was helping at a caucus for the first time.

The line continues to snake its way around the school courtyard and out the front gates.

Inside the school gym where caucusgoers were lining up to vote, Ben Carson supporter Michele Sanders was packing up signs and shirts after being told they couldn’t set up inside the school. Carson is expected to arrive sometime within the hour.

“Shhh! Its supposed to be a secret!” She said.

Rubio Rallies at Silverton

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., rallies with supporters at the Silverton on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016, ahead of the Nevada caucuses. Launch slideshow »

5:10 p.m. Linda LeBourveau and her husband, Mel Lewis, said they’re casting a vote for Ben Carson — despite knowing his odds of winning the nomination are slim.

“He is solid as a rock,” said LeBourveau, who attended his town hall this morning. “And he has no intentions in it for himself.”

The nation’s divided nature has unsettled LeBourveau, prompting her to become more involved in this election season than any before.

Her husband agrees with her assessment and thinks the American Dream has been lost in the process.

“I don’t think the democrats or republicans can bring it back,” he said, adding that he hopes the chosen candidate can at least slow down the damage.”

5:05 p.m. Stephanie Reeder works in human resources for Caesars Entertainment, where she says she’s surrounded by a lot of Democrats.

“We don’t speak a lot of politics, but I make sure everyone knows my views,” Reeder said.

Reeder will be caucusing for Ben Carson even though she acknowledges he doesn’t have the best chances at winning the Republican presidential nomination.

“I still think he’s the best candidate even if he’s beat out,” Reeder said. “I want him to stay as long as he can.”

She’s met a significant number of Trump supporters in line, who she hopes to sway during caucuses over to Carson’s side.

“He uses patience and intelligence. He’s wise in the way he speaks and has the best solutions for the problems we’re facing today,” Reeder said.

4:56 p.m.Tenny Jane, 67, has a bad knee, so she was happy to receive a call from the Rubio campaign telling her that she could come to her caucus site at Durango High School, fill out a ballot, and then leave.

“I can’t stand for a long time,” she said.

Both she and her husband were wearing white Marco Rubio stickers and will be supporting the Florida senator in the caucus tonight — their first caucus since moving to Las Vegas from Monterrey, Calif., in 2014.

“Rubio, I think, is the best aside from Kasich, but with Kasich I don’t want to waste my vote,” Jane said. “I want to go with a person who can win.”

Jane said she didn’t like Cruz, calling him a “bully.”

“He don’t respect people in the Senate,” Jane said. “He calls them liars and now it comes back to him."

4:55 p.m.Lined up outside of a cafeteria at Durango High School, Roger Milton and Paulette Milton brought their 20-year-old granddaughter, Brianna, with them for her first caucus.

The three, wearing red and blue “Trump 2016 Make America great again!" stickers, will be caucusing for the New York businessman. They say they’ve supported him since the start of his campaign.

“He tells it like it is. We need someone with the background he has to get this country back,” said Roger Milton, a 72-year-old Marine corps veteran. “The first thing I can’t stand is political correctness.”

None of them has attended a Trump rally — they wanted to go last night but couldn’t make it — and said they got most of their information about him from watching TV. They said many of their friends weren’t planning on coming out to caucus because they didn’t know that they could just come to the precinct, fill out a ballot, and leave.

But the Miltons plan on staying the whole time to listen to pitches for the candidates, since it’s Brianna Milton’s first caucus.

4:54 p.m. A line nearly 500 feet long stretches across the parking lot at Western High School as caucus-goers wait to enter.

Jacqueline Ochaita, 22, is one of the hopeful caucus-goers waiting outside.

A teacher at Lone Mountain Academy, Ochaita said she supported Ted Cruz because views aligned closely with those of Christian voters.

"He's most in line with what I believe as an evangelical," Ochaita said.

4:50 p.m. As volunteers attend a meeting at Valley High School, GOP caucusgoers are starting to file into the school. Now, the waiting begins.

Margie Snipes and her husband moved here from Tennessee several years ago after retiring, so this marks their first caucus experience.

“I don’t think people should complain if they don’t come vote,” she said.

Snipes said she will be casting her vote for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz because “he’s a true conservative.”

If Cruz doesn’t ultimately win the nomination, Snipes said she would throw her support behind another Republican candidate.

4:45 p.m. Nearly three dozen volunteers surround two tables inside the cafeteria at Western High School, filling out name tags and signing in caucusgoers.

Most of the volunteers don either red, white or blue or a combination of the colors. One man, David Millette, 67, wears a white “Trump” shirt and a hat reading “Make America Great Again.”

A real estate developer, Millette said he makes a personal connection with GOP frontrunner Donald Trump because of their shared profession.

“He knows how to cast a net and reach out to a wide range of voters,” Millette said. “He’s successful and hardworking, too. That’s what America needs.

•••

Tonight, the three front-runners for the Republican presidential nomination face off in Nevada’s caucuses after three days of traveling up and down the Silver State.

Donald Trump is projected to win the state by a comfortable margin. But Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz have established strong ground operations in the state, which could help close that gap. The two are expected to compete for second place.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are still in the race but are polling well behind the other candidates, although polling in Nevada is considered both unreliable and scarce. Kasich hasn’t made campaign appearances in the state in the past few days and, today at a town hall meeting in Georgia, said he is unsure whether his “purpose” is to be president.

It has come down to what is widely considered a three-man race among Trump, Rubio and Cruz.

The caucuses start between 5 and 7 p.m. — depending on the county — and are supposed to finish by 9. Unlike in the Democratic caucuses, Republicans can simply show up and cast a secret ballot instead of waiting for the caucus proceedings to run their course.

Cruz has held the most Nevada events by far over the past three days, traveling to Pahrump, Henderson, Summerlin, Elko, Reno, Fernley, Minden and Carson City for rallies. Rubio has had a slightly more abbreviated schedule, with stops in North Las Vegas, Elko, Reno, Minden and Las Vegas. He has departed for rallies in Minnesota and Michigan and will not be here when results are announced tonight.

Trump held a rally Monday night in Las Vegas with about 8,000 attendees and staged another packed rally in Sparks at noon today.

The big question tonight is how many Republicans will turn out for the caucuses. Unlike with the Democratic caucuses, voters had to be registered Republicans by Feb. 13 to participate. The past two Republican presidential caucuses have seen small turnouts.

Cruz and Trump have election-results parties slated for this evening. Cruz’s will be at the Bill & Lillie Heinrich YMCA in Las Vegas. Trump will hold his at Treasure Island. Rubio’s campaign is hosting a watch party this evening at Dom DeMarco’s Pizzeria. Carson has a party scheduled at the Embassy Suites Convention Center.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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