Presidential Election 2016
Primary Elections - News

Presidential Elections 2016

Trump wins Nevada GOP Caucus, Rubio ahead of Cruz in race for second
February 24, 2016

Donald Trump scored a convincing victory Tuesday night in the Nevada Republican Caucus — a third straight win that builds upon his momentum heading into next week's Super Tuesday and delivers a sharp warning to his rivals and the party establishment that time may be running out to slow his march to the nomination.

In the battle for second place, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio held a slim edge over Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, but that result was still too close to call Wednesday morning.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Trump led with 45 percent, followed by Rubio at 24 percent and Cruz at 21 percent.

Far behind were retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who earned 5 percent and 4 percent of votes, respectively.

Before a cheering crowd of supporters in Las Vegas, Trump teased those who predicted he wouldn’t do well in this contest and others.

“Now we’re winning, winning, winning,” Trump said. “Soon, the country is going to start winning, winning, winning.”

This is the third win in a row for Trump, who earlier this month won South Carolina and New Hampshire after placing second in Iowa. His winning streak gives him significant momentum as he heads into next week's Super Tuesday contests, the biggest prize of the campaign so far.

More than a dozen states hold primaries or caucuses that day, awarding nearly 600 delegates – or more than four times the number that have been awarded in the first four states combined.

Entrance polls in Nevada showed Trump was buoyed by support from a range of groups, including Hispanics and evangelicals. And he dominated among caucus-goers who said they prefered an outsider.

While Trump builds his base, Rubio and Cruz are still fighting to cut into his lead, with diminishing opportunities to do so.

Rubio has enjoyed some momentum after his second-place finish Saturday in the South Carolina primary. But even as he wins over endorsements from "establishment" figures, the Florida senator has yet to notch his first election victory, raising continuing doubts over whether he could be a successful Trump alternative.

He did get one high-powered vote on Tuesday, though -- a spokeswoman said Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval cast his ballot for Rubio.

Cruz, meanwhile, is trying to shake doubts about his campaign and recover after a tough stretch during which his campaign repeatedly was accused of "dirty tricks" -- leading him to fire his top spokesman over one incident.

At Cruz's watch party in Vegas, he maintained he’s still the best candidate to go up against Trump – and the Democratic nominee. In a knock at Rubio, he noted only two candidates, him and Trump, have won one of the first three contests and said voters will have a “clear choice” next Tuesday.

“One week from today will be the most important night of this campaign,” Cruz said.

Cruz won the Iowa caucuses, but has struggled to follow that up since. He finished third in South Carolina, despite an electorate full of the kind of evangelical voters who thus far have carried his campaign.

Trump charged into Nevada with unrelenting attacks on Cruz’s character.

"There's something wrong with this guy," Trump said at a Las Vegas rally Monday night. On Tuesday, he called Cruz a "soft, weak, little baby" who lies.

Polls had shown Trump leading in Nevada, but polling in The Silver State is sparse and the contest is often unpredictable. Mitt Romney won the last two GOP caucuses in 2008 and 2012.

Nevada’s voting took place in schools, community centers and places of worship across the state. There were reports of long lines and even caucus volunteers wearing campaign attire – specifically pro-Trump.

But state Republican officials said it was “not against the rules for volunteers to wear candidate gear.” One GOP official told reporters looking at complaints on Twitter to “take a deep breath,” saying the state was looking at high turnout and enthusiasm.

Early Wednesday, the Nevada Republican Party announced that over 75,000 voters had cast ballots, a new turnout record for the caucus.

The caucus marked the first Republican election in the West, and the fourth of the campaign.

Trump's rivals concede they are running out of time to take him on. The election calendar suggests that if the New York billionaire's rivals don't slow him by mid-March, they may not ever. Trump swept all of South Carolina's 50 delegates, giving him a total of 67 compared to Cruz and Rubio who had 11 and 10, respectively, heading into Nevada.

An Associated Press tally early Wednesday showed Trump with 12 of Nevada's 30 delegates, while Cruz and Rubio each received five with another eight delegates yet to be allocated.

Rubio and Cruz have been laying into each other viciously in recent days, an indication they know Trump can be slowed only if one of them is eliminated.

Rubio -- who finished third in Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire -- had already left Nevada, preferring to campaign in Minnesota and Michigan. In recent days, he has also picked up support from such Republican establishment heavyweights as Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis and Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch.

"We have incredible room to grow," Rubio told reporters during a Monday night news conference on his campaign plane.

Trump wins South Carolina GOP primary
February 20, 2016

Donald Trump swept to victory in the South Carolina Republican primary on Saturday, putting him in a commanding position as the race shifts to a slew of delegate-rich contests.

Jeb Bush, though, abruptly suspended his campaign after a distant finish, leaving unclear to whom his supporters will gravitate.

But Trump, at his victory rally, seemed to dismiss the notion that other candidates would benefit from Bush's exit.

"[The pundits] don't understand that as people drop out, I'm going to get a lot of those votes," Trump said.

He said the primary race lately has been "mean" and "vicious" but: "When you win, it's beautiful."

He closed by saying, "Let’s put this thing away, and let’s make America great again."

Trump's victory is not by the big double-digit margin that pre-election polls had suggested. Still, this makes back-to-back victories for Trump, who more than doubled the vote of his closest competitor in New Hampshire last week.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio remain locked in a battle for second place.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Rubio is narrowly leading Cruz with just over 22 percent. Trump leads with 33 percent.

Both candidates were staying confident.

"After tonight, this has become a three-person race, and we will win the nomination,” Rubio told supporters.

Rubio placed third in Iowa, but stumbled in New Hampshire following a rough debate performance. He vowed to bounce back, and entered the South Carolina contest enjoying support from the state's popular governor, Nikki Haley, and other state leaders.

Senior Cruz aides maintained the Texas senator remains “well-positioned” going into looming Southern state primaries, since he won Iowa and placed third in New Hampshire.

Lagging far behind Saturday were the three other candidates – Ohio Gov. John Kasich, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Bush, all of whom appear to be stuck in single digits.

While Bush suspended his campaign, Carson vowed to stay in, as did Kasich.

The GOP race heads next to Nevada and after that to Super Tuesday, representing a delegate gold mine. Even South Carolina, with 50 delegates, is the most valuable GOP primary to date. As the winner, Trump would get the lion's share.

South Carolina, historically, also is a prized contest for Republican candidates as it has a knack for picking the eventual nominee – the primary winner has gone on to claim the nomination in every race since 1980, except for 2012 when Newt Gingrich won.

The state has a reputation as well for bringing out bare-knuckle campaign tactics, and this year was no exception. Charges of dirty politics flew on all sides in the lead-up to Saturday’s primary, with robo-calls and misleading websites surfacing about the candidates.

The race tightened in the final days, but not enough to shake Trump's long-time advantage there.

Trump had enjoyed a 13-point lead in the latest average of pre-election polls by Real Clear Politics. Fox News exit polls indicate significant numbers of late-deciding voters ended up supporting Cruz and Rubio, causing both candidates to perform more strongly than pre-election polling suggested.

Trump, according to exit polls, was still the overwhelming favorite among voters who said they’re angry with the federal government. Cruz, though, had the edge among voters who said their top issue is terrorism.

But of the three other candidates, only Kasich has made it onto the leaderboard in the three opening contests. With Bush out, he's the last governor standing in the race.

Bush, the former Florida governor, entered the 2016 presidential race as an early favorite, but fell in the polls steadily, despite having had a couple strong debate performances in recent weeks.

“The presidency is bigger than any one person. It is certainly bigger than any candidate,” he said in suspending his campaign.

Kasich, who placed second in New Hampshire, had low expectations in South Carolina. He is looking toward more moderate states that vote later in March.

Trump's victory, meanwhile, could foreshadow a solid performance in the collection of Southern states that vote on March 1. Victories in those Super Tuesday contests could put the billionaire in a commanding position in the delegate count, which determines the nomination.

Trump won in South Carolina after the Democrats held caucuses earlier in the day in Nevada, where Hillary Clinton was projected the winner.

Trump, Kasich, Cruz, Rubio, Bush: What NH results mean to the still-alive five
February 11, 2016

Add this to the list of election-year proverbs to dismiss: John Sununu’s snarky missive that “Iowa picks corn and New Hampshire picks presidents”.

The last presidential hopeful to make good on Sununu’s words: his old boss, George H.W. Bush. That was all the way back in 1988 – three years before Peyton Manning first took the field . . . for his high-school team.

Maybe Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, New Hampshire’s two big winners, will make Sununu look good. Time will tell.

In theory, the first two stops on the campaign trail embody two traits: clarity and attrition. In that regard, Iowa’s GOP caucuses didn’t disappoint. Three Republican candidates left the race not long after the votes were counted; the contest moving forward suggested a three-man war of attrition between Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

And then New Hampshire went to the polls.

Three “cards” coming out of the primary? Try 52-card pickup, with the race as muddled as it was pre-Iowa. And as many as five Republicans still with a pulse: Trump, Cruz and Rubio, plus John Kasich and Jeb Bush.

Consider what the Granite State results meant to the Still-Alive Five:

Trump. The Donald held only 11 town hall meetings and spent but 23 days in the state – it would have been 24 if he hadn’t been snowed out last week due to his insistence upon sleeping in his Manhattan bed. You won’t find a more economical victory this early in the process.

Before Iowa, Trump’s message was words to the effect that “I’m ahead because I’m great and I’m great because I’m ahead”. Trump can now credibly repeat that mantra (as he surely will). Soon, South Carolina will break the tie as to whether Trump is more of a concept or a reality.

There is this one cloud on the horizon for Trump: as sweeping as his victory was (he scored particularly well with voters concerned about the economy and terrorism), Trump finished only one point above the final pre-primary poll. He emerges from New Hampshire with momentum, but it’s not an unstoppable train.

Kasich. The strategy of “second place or bust” paid off for Ohio’s governor. Kasich held no less than 106 town halls, nearly 10 times Trump’s empathy stops.

Credit the man for his persistence; if you’re cynical, give him demerits for blatant single-state pandering.

With the second-place finish, Kasich moves on – albeit with two problems: not a lot of money in the bank (perhaps as much $2.5 million in cash on hand, which won’t go far in a race that’ll soon span time zones); and finding another state where, minus the luxury of enough time to personally sell the message of high-road governance, he can do serious damage.

Rubio. There he was cruising along, picking up ground in the daily tracking polls, until Chris Christie bloodied him badly in the final pre-primary debate (as in Iowa, debates seem to have played a crucial role). So much for Rubio’s “3 (Iowa) 2 (New Hampshire) 1 (South Carolina)” strategy.

Like Tony Soprano killing the mob informant during his tour of Maine colleges with his daughter, this one act of New Jersey violence imported into New England had serious ramifications. Rubio’s jarring underperformance means it’s time to regroup, rethink strategy and maybe revisit all the rehearsed lines.

If it’s any consolation to Rubio, Christie finished a disappointing sixth – too poor of a showing to qualify for the next GOP debate. He announced he's heading back to New Jersey. We’ll see if he vows to soldier on.

Cruz. The one Republican in the field playing with house money, in that the Texas senator’s fortunes have always been predicated on strong performance in Iowa and the South, not New Hampshire.

You’ll be hearing a lot about “Upcounty” in the coming days. It’s the more socially conservative part of noncoastal South Carolina that will determine Cruz’s success in the Palmetto State (it went big for Newt Gingrich in 2012). As luck would have it, it’s also the locale of the next GOP debate (Saturday, at Greenville’s inaptly named Peace Center).

Bush. What does $36 million in primary expenses and a claim of reaching the largest number of voters get you? For Jeb Bush, a problematic argument that his success in not finishing last among the three governors and not getting buried by Rubio earns him the right to fight on in the South.

The Bush strategy – well, the new strategy after the massive war chest failed to clear the field of moderate alternatives? It’s not much different than his father and brother’s presidential runs: South Carolina as a Bush “firewall”.

For Jeb, that means South Carolina as the state where he turns the corner – brushing aside Kasich, outperforming Rubio and arriving at the March 1 Super Tuesday cluster of states as a more believable establishment alternative to Cruz and Trump.

Or so another multimillion-dollar sell with attempt.

With Republicans not voting again until a week from Saturday, it’s time for a little perspective.

In 1996, New Hampshire’s Republican presidential primary likewise produced a jumble. The evening’s winner was the conservative commentator Patrick J. Buchanan – same middle initial as Trump, same angry populist message (“Do not wait for orders from headquarters,” Buchanan roared in his victory speech, “mount up everybody and ride to the sound of the guns.”)

Finishing second: Bob Dole, the field’s frontrunner and establishment favorite. Not far behind Dole: Lamar Alexander and Steve Forbes.

Twenty years ago, the GOP field was clearly divided, with an air of inevitability. Buchanan, like Trump, tapped into nativist and protectionist sentiments. Dole, like a few GOP candidates in this current field, struggled with how to fashion himself as au courant despite being a well-worn political figure. Alexander, a former Tennessee governor, was the candidate of the New South. Forbes, a flat-tax champion, was the economic candidate.

The 2016 GOP field offers similar clarity in that Trump is a more entertaining version of Buchanan’s “pitchfork rebellion”. Cruz is preaching old-timey social conservatism. Kasich espouses good (and sometimes expansive) government. Rubio and Bush are running on big-tent electability.

Yet unlike 1996, when Dole had the money and machinery to outlast the rest of the field, no current Republican has an inside track on the party’s nomination.

Trump has yet to write himself a big check suggesting he’ll blitz the airwaves. Cruz has yet to prove he can win on a field not tilted in his favor. Kasich may or may not prove to be a one-state wonder. Rubio and Bush carry lingering doubts.

The good news now that New Hampshire’s in the books: they all get to linger a little longer.