Donald Trump Wins, Wins, Wins in Nevada
"We’re going to do it and it’s going to happen fast," Donald Trump said at his victory party on Tuesday night, at the Treasure Island Hotel, in Las Vegas, after winning the Nevada caucus by a large margin. Trump was referring to the great-again-making of America, which he portrayed as unfolding at breakneck speed—as fast as construction workers paid for by Mexico could build his border wall. But he might as well have meant his pursuit of the Republican nomination. As Trump pointed out, the next Republican contests are on March 1st, Super Tuesday, in a dozen states whose names he listed fondly (“Arkansaaaw”) and that he said he thought he would win. The only state where he’s not leading in the polls is Texas, Ted Cruz’s home state, and he’s catching up there. Trump mentioned his leads in Michigan, the biggest of the states voting on March 8th; in Florida, Marco Rubio’s state (“We love Florida”), which votes on March 15th; and Ohio, John Kasich’s state (“It’s always nice to be beating the governor”), which is also voting on March 15th. “It’s going to be an amazing two months,” Trump said. “We might not even need the two months, folks, to be honest.” That is an honest statement, by Trump’s standards or anyone’s.
"For Trump not to win the Presidency, someone has to beat him. It may have to be the Democratic nominee."
There were other accurate things that Trump said in his victory speech. “Tonight we had forty-five, forty six per cent.” The counting, when he spoke, was in the early stages, but he turned out to be just about right—he got 45.9 per cent—with Rubio at 23.9 per cent and Cruz at 21.4, the same order as in South Carolina. (Ben Carson got five per cent, and Kasich, the object of many moderate fantasies, about three.) Trump did even better with moderates than with those voters who said that they were very conservative, though he won both groups, according to exit polls. Trump continued, “And tomorrow you’ll be hearing, You know, if they could just take the other candidates and add ’em up, and if you could add ’em up. Because you know, the other candidates amount to fifty-five per cent.” At that, Trump’s sons, Eric and Donald, Jr., who were flanking him, shook their heads and smiled at the delusions of the commentators. (Fair enough.) “They keep forgetting, that when people drop out, we’re going to get a lot of votes,” Trump said, and he was, again, probably right.
Another problem with the add-’em-up theory is that there is a lot of disagreement about who the beneficiary should be. Rubio is a popular choice, but he has not won anything and is disconcertingly far to the right; as is Cruz, whose concession speech was all about how he was the only one who could beat Trump, whom he called a “Washington dealmaker.” Cruz seems to have been hurt by reports that his campaign is dirty, with a whiff of personal sneakiness. Trump has done his part to damage Cruz’s “TrusTed” brand. On Tuesday, he tweeted, “Ted Cruz lifts the Bible high into the air and then lies like a dog—over and over again! The Evangelicals in S.C. figured him out & said no!” (Trump did win the evangelical vote, according the to exit polls, in both South Carolina and Nevada.) And, in a speech, Trump called Cruz a “soft, weak little baby,” in a way that did not sound complimentary to babies. But Trump is not alone in making the charge. Rubio regularly calls Cruz a liar (as did Rand Paul, before he left the race), and Ben Carson’s campaign has made it clear that it considers Cruz a cheater, because of some low moves in Iowa. There was dismay, among those who want a united front against Trump, that Cruz and Rubio had spent the days between South Carolina and Nevada attacking each other, rather than him. But Rubio couldn’t really help it, since Cruz’s spokesman circulated a false report that Rubio had been caught on video saying that there were “not many answers” in the Bible; Cruz had to fire his spokesman, because in the video Rubio actually says that “all the answers are in there.”
"One can assume, going forward, that Trump’s message will continue to be that Hispanics love him and his wall, just as he regularly says that unnamed Muslim friends call and tell him of the wisdom of his plan to exclude Muslims from the United States."
Trump also had a point about the breadth of his victory, if one that he pushed too far. “We won the evangelicals, we won with young, we won with old, we won with highly educated, we won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated!” he said, with a theatrical shrug. He added that he had won “with the smartest people, with the most loyal people”—whether those qualities were meant to be in opposition wasn’t clear—“and you know what I really am happy about? Because I’ve been saying it for a long time, Forty-six per cent with the Hispanics, forty-six per cent, number one with Hispanics!” The caveat is that relatively few Hispanic voters took part: twenty-eight per cent of Nevadans are Hispanic, but only eight per cent of the G.O.P. caucus-goers were. (That imbalance may be, as much as anything, a measure of the racial polarization of the two parties.) But one can assume, going forward, that Trump’s message will continue to be that Hispanics love him and his wall, just as he regularly says that unnamed Muslim friends call and tell him of the wisdom of his plan to exclude Muslims from the United States.
The Republican Party, along with everyone else, should now be well past the idea that Trump cannot possibly be the nominee simply because he is Trump. There is no clause saying that having had a television reality show makes one ineligible for the Presidency. He will win the nomination if he wins a majority of the delegates—barring a collapse of the party—and he will win the Presidency if he wins enough electoral votes, whatever people think of his hair or of his bigotry. Tackiness has no constitutional meaning. It was always strange, early in the race, to hear other candidates condemn Trump’s lack of seriousness, in a tone that suggested that they themselves were models of statesmanship. Sneering, especially in a way that invokes class, is not an effective tool against him. For one thing, in the current economy, it resonates. At another point in his speech, Trump said, “We’re going to be the smart people. We’re not going to be the people that get pushed around all over the place.” Trump’s bitter populism is built into that sentence.
There are other Nevada footnotes: confusion about ballots, poll workers decked in Trump gear (this is in keeping with the rules in Nevada), Trump’s own name on a major Las Vegas hotel. At the Treasure Island, Trump thanked, in the same breath, the evangelicals and Steve Wynn, the casino owner, whose advice he said he valued. He also thanked his two adult sons, saying, as he turned to Donald, Jr., “This is serious rifle. This is serious N.R.A.—both of them.” Both sons hunt, and have spent a good deal of time at gun-related campaign events. (His daughter Ivanka, who is nine months pregnant, was not on the stage; nor was his wife, Melania.) And Trump thanked Phil Ruffin, the owner of the Treasure Island, who he said had wanted to give ten million dollars for his campaign. Trump had said no, though that was unnatural for him: “I grab, and grab, and grab. You know I get greedy I want money, money.” Trump managed to turn that into a riff about how he’d be “greedy for the United States.” He said, “Now we’re winning, winning, winning the country.” After March 15th, Trump may be much closer to making that statement come true, too. For him not to win the Presidency, someone has to beat him. It may have to be the Democratic nominee.
© 2016 The New Yorker