I could give you a rundown of what happened last night in Nevada but (1) Aaron already did it and (2) it’s better if I illustrate it with a photo.
I’m not saying this merely because, barring the possibility of a brokered convention, the Donald is the presumptive nominee. I’m saying this because Nevada’s performance last night, across the board, should force a revocation of its statehood. I award the entire state no points, and may God have mercy on its soul.
The caucus was an unqualified disaster. In some cases, polling locations didn’t have enough ballots to accommodate caucus-goers. In other cases, caucus-goers had so many ballots that they were, allegedly, voting multiple times. In some cases, the cacus process had approximately the same level of organization as any other late-night punch-drunk Las Vegas effort in history. Occasionally, the entire mess was being run with people in Trump hats and tee shirts, assuring everyone that they were fully invested in a fair and honest primary process.
Hahahahahaha. Just kidding.
The good news for Trump, at least (though how good it is for anyone else remains to be seen), is that he’s starting to earn the traditional op-ed flood bemoaning his position as the presumptive nominiee. The spreads in South Carolina and Nevada were enough, it seems, to put him well within striking distance of the Republican nomination, and while Cruz and Rubio remain contenders, they’re solidly in second and third place.
Tuesday night’s result could hardly have been more clear-cut. Several news organizations called the race for the business mogul the moment the caucuses ended. With 24 percent of returns in shortly after 2 a.m. EST, Trump had about 44 percent support, putting a significant hole in the theory that there is a ceiling to his appeal in the mid-30s.
There is less than week to go before Super Tuesday, when Republicans in 12 states vote. It is difficult to imagine what could happen at this stage to blunt Trump’s momentum.
The only scheduled event of real consequence between now and then is a CNN debate set for Thursday night in Houston. Several controversial debate performances — including one in South Carolina right before the Palmetto State primary — have not hurt Trump at all.
There is a glimmer of hope for those who don’t want to believe a reality television star and real estate mogul has a stranglehold on the nation’s highest office. With 70% of the delegates still up for grabs after Super Tuesday, Trump still has a difficult climb ahead. Until he wins eight states – the number that makes you an official contender at the covnention – he’s assailable, and there is certainly the possibility that any number of othe candidates, Rubio and Cruz included, could also nab eight states, since quality isn’t necessarily a requirement – any eight states or territories will do – they could, conceivably, stay in the race and force a brokered convention. Of course, this is all the kind of pipe-dream fantasy that typically features Fabio on the cover, but a girl can dream, can’t she?
In a more reality-based realm, Marco Rubio was, at least, a strong contender last night, and his second second-place finish over Cruz makes him the most likely ballot challenger. He hasn’t won a state yet, though his strategy had been to make a slow build towards a win in South Carolina, but he’s not badly positioned. Given the way nomination processes have played out before, a consistent performance could leave Rubio with cache, especially as more Rubio-favorable states, like Florida, come into play. Unfortunately, Marco’s home state is Florida, where a man recently paid for his Wendy’s drive through with a live alligator, so of course Rubio is running behind everyone’s favorite unreasonably angry hotelier.
We can’t count Cruz out, either, given that Texas, his home state and a wealth of delegates, is up on Super Tuesday, and he’s already running ahead. He’s the most likely candidate to pick up the eight wins, given that he’s also angling for things like Guam and American Samoa, where other candidates aren’t contending, for purely mathematical reasons. If Cruz can take advantage of the one and only chance someone has of beating Trump in a significant state, he can make his resurgence. And as far as that goes, even John Kasich has a shot. Ohio will pop up in the next week, and he’s only running four points behind Trump.
I feel like I’m trying to convince myself of something, of course, like I know I’m not going to get into my top choice school so I’m trying to feel good about, say, a decent degree program at a school where they set couches on fire to celebrate sporting victories and have a less-than-ten-percent incidence of alcohol poisoning among Freshmen. But it’s still hope, right?