Feb. 25, 2016 — As expected, Donald Trump placed first in the Nevada Caucuses scoring just under 46 percent of the attender preference; his strongest performance to date, though the turnout was only in the 75,000 range. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was second with 24 percent, followed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at 21 percent. Dr. Ben Carson and Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) trailed with five and four percent, respectively.
Though he didn’t emphasize Nevada at all, Gov. Kasich’s dead last finish behind Carson cannot be good for his pre-Ohio staying power.
Nevada apportions 30 delegates on a straight proportional basis with a zero percent vote threshold. With these percentages, Trump is expected to commit 14 delegate votes, Rubio seven, Cruz six, Carson two, and Kasich one. The small totals mean that Nevada is only partially determinative regarding GOP nomination direction.
Trump didn’t score a knockout punch, but no one expected any different. Trump adds incrementally to his delegate advantage but is the undisputed leader heading into the 12-state Super Tuesday bonanza on March 1. Those contests, mostly in the south, will go a long way to deciding whether Trump can best position himself to capture the party nomination.
Though he was projected to be the top finisher just after the Caucus meetings closed, Trump still failed to clear a 50 percent majority, and the aggregate total for Rubio and Cruz virtually equaled the current leader’s Nevada total. To win the nomination, a candidate must secure a delegate majority, meaning 1,237 from the universe of 2,472 total Republican convention delegate votes.
The important upcoming Super Tuesday states to watch are the five that require 20 percent of the vote to qualify for delegate apportionment: Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and Vermont. All use the 20 percent threshold system, meaning a candidate must attain this vote percentage to qualify for vote distribution. Now that Dr. Carson and Gov. Kasich are fading, it is likely that the three top contenders, Trump, Rubio, and Cruz, will break 20 percent in four of those states, just as they did tonight in Nevada. Gov. Kasich, who is targeting the northern tier states for Super Tuesday, could well qualify in Vermont, but the delegate pool there is small.
If such a result occurs in those five states along with Arkansas, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Virginia, Alaska, and the non-binding Wyoming precinct caucuses, Trump may well score further first place finishes, but he still won’t be near the majority mark necessary to clinch the nomination. Therefore, the primaries and caucuses will continue on through 17 more states and territories through March 15, culminating with the big Winner-Take-All states of Florida and Ohio.
On the evening of March 15, 32 voting entities will have cast their ballots and a clear pattern will have formed. Under the present vote and delegate commitment ratios, it appears that no candidate, including Trump, will have the necessary delegate votes to effectively clinch the nomination. Therefore, assuming both Cruz and Rubio remain able to attract significant delegate support, having a brokered Republican convention still looms as a possibility.