By taking a decisive victory in the Nevada caucuses on Tuesday, Donald Trump racked up his third straight win in the Republican primaries. Now more than ever, establishment party leaders are being forced to confront the fact that Trump is not going away. Even in a state with comparatively low turnout, the real estate mogul managed to make mincemeat out of his two closest rivals: Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Rubio was apparently so disappointed by his finish that he didn’t even bother making a speech.
This victory gives Trump an astounding amount of momentum heading into next Tuesday’s multi-state primaries, where his approach to campaigning is going to become even more relevant. Though Trump’s lack of a so-called “ground game” has yet to really hurt him in the primaries thus far, it will become even less of a factor when the candidates vie for 12 states at the same time. In that scenario, Trump’s ability to draw massive crowds and big ratings will give him a huge advantage over Cruz and Rubio.
To be sure, nothing is certain yet. The Republicans are practically begging Ohio Governor John Kasich to suspend his campaign, hoping to consolidate establishment support around Rubio. But already, it’s obvious that the voter math isn’t going to work out quite like they hoped. Conventional wisdom said that Jeb Bush’s small base of support would go to Rubio once he dropped out. So far, the polls indicate that Trump’s lead has grown since Bush’s departure. If that trend continues, there may be nothing short of self-implosion that can derail the Trump Train.
“Now we’re winning, winning, winning,” Trump said on Tuesday night. “And soon the country is going to start winning, winning, winning.”
He’s got room to crow, but it should be remembered that to have a winner, you must also have a loser. Regardless of how much money he’s got left, Rubio has now lost four straight primary contests. At some point, psychology is going to play a role, if it isn’t already. Americans…hell, human beings…are drawn to people with a track record of success. The more victories Trump piles up, the harder it will be for his opponents to stop him.
For his part, Cruz maintained optimism in his concession speech. “The only campaign that has beaten Donald Trump and the only campaign that can beat Donald Trump is this campaign,” Cruz said, referring to his win in Iowa.
Unfortunately for Cruz, though, it’s not clear where his comeback lies. Trump’s not just winning with socially-liberal voters. He’s winning with hardline conservatives. He’s winning with evangelicals. He’s winning with college grads and he’s winning with high school dropouts. To the endless frustration of the mainstream media, he’s even winning with Hispanics. If Cruz or Rubio are going to start winning some primaries, they’re going to need some new tricks.