Donald Trump has won a third straight victory, the state Republican Party confirmed, with victory in the Nevada caucuses, cementing a lead that could soon be insurmountable in the Republican presidential race.
Early results on Wednesday showed Trump, who had been expected to win by a large margin, leading the pack of candidates with about 44 percent of the vote.
“If you listen to the pundits, we weren’t expected to win too much, and now we’re winning, winning, winning the country,” Trump said at a victory rally in Las Vegas.
Marco Rubio was projected by Fox News to come in second with about 30 percent, edging out Ted Cruz who received 16 percent in the Nevada caucuses, according to early results.
Both men, however, were far ahead of John Kasich and Ben Carson, Fox News projected.
The Nevada win is the third in a row for Trump in the state-by-state nominating contest for the November presidential election.
A billionaire businessman and political outsider, Trump’s brash, anti-government talk appealed to Nevada residents, political strategists said before the Tuesday evening caucus.
“If you listen to the pundits, we weren’t expected to win too much, and now we’re winning, winning, winning the country,” Trump said at a victory rally in Las Vegas on Wednesday.
Basking in his victory, Trump vowed he would keep open the military detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, if elected.
“We’re going to load it up with a lot of bad dudes out there,” he said, a day after President Barack Obama presented his latest plan to close the facility.
Trump also drew loud cheers for his vow to build a wall along the southern border and his instance that Mexico will pay for it.
Trump offered shout-outs from the stage to several of his billionaire friends, including Phil Ruffin, who owns the Treasure Island, and casino developer Steve Wynn.
“Now we’re going to get greedy for the United States,” he said.
Cruz and Rubio had both set their sights on a strong second-place finish there in the hopes that a win over the other would provide important momentum before the 12 nominating contests on March 1, known as Super Tuesday.
Polls suggest that Trump will do well in many of those Super Tuesday states, placing further pressure on Cruz, Rubio, and Ohio Governor John Kasich, another presidential candidate who was not a factor in Nevada, to come up with counter-measures quickly.