WTF Happened in the Nevada GOP Caucuses, Explained

Trump gained momentum, declaring, "I love the poorly educated!" while Rubio's firewall was breached

Donald Trump won the Nevada Republican caucuses in a landslide Tuesday. Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty

Some say American democracy is a crucible; the Nevada Republican caucus Tuesday night more closely resembled a dumpster fire. And then Trump won.

Oh, God. What happened?
Republican caucus night in Nevada got off to a jagged start, with widespread allegations of voting irregularities, including reports of ballot shortages, double voting, failed ID checks, caucus managers decked out in pro-Trump attire and ballots printed with a sponsorship message from Michele Fiore — the GOP congressional candidate and Ted Cruz supporter best known for supporting the political aims of the Bundy militia.

As photographs documenting the shenanigans flooded social media, state party leaders added to the dark hilarity by tweeting, Baghdad Bob-style, "There have been no official reports of voting irregularities or violations."

Did any of this affect the outcome?
The irregularities were the sideshow. Trump won in a landslide. He took more than 40 percent of the vote — nearly besting the sum total of the support accruing to also-rans Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

That sounds like bad news for Cruz and Rubio.
It's really bad news for Rubio — the GOP establishment's new favorite — who has yet to win a state, and for whom Nevada was seen as a "firewall." In the aftermath of Jeb Bush's departure from the race, Rubio had won the endorsement of Nevada's Republican senator, Dean Heller, and even scored the vote of the state's governor, Brian Sandoval. But none of that translated into anything resembling a win on Tuesday night. There were no moral victories in Nevada. Just this reality: Trump trounced.

Watch highlights from Donald Trump's speech in Nevada last night. 

What did we learn from the entrance polls?
There has been a lot of talk about candidates jockeying to win their "lanes" in the GOP race: the establishment lane, the evangelical lane, the anti-establishment lane.

But according to the Nevada results, Trump's support cuts across all of the lanes — as if by eminent domain.

The entrance polls are really quite something.

Trump won big among: men and women, those under 45 and over 45, and white voters and nonwhites. He took every category of education, and every category of political orientation, from moderate to very conservative. He won born-again voters and non-evangelicals. He won voters who care most about immigration, and those who prioritize the economy, and those worried about terrorism, and the ones who want to rein in government spending. He won voters who are angry and voters who are merely dissatisfied. He took those who care deeply about the Supreme Court vacancy, and those who really can't be bothered. City dwellers, suburbanites, rural folk — they all went Trump. All of them.

Rubio is still seen as more electable. More folks still pick Cruz for sharing their values. But Trump's Trumpiness trumped out, once again, among voters looking for change and a candidate who "tells it like it is."

Did you say that Trump won among nonwhites?
Hang on to your hat (and discount for a small sample size and a high margin of error): Despite his xenophobic and anti-immigrant rhetoric, Trump won among Republican Latino voters in Nevada, taking 44 percent, compared to Rubio's 29 percent and Ted Cruz's 18 percent support.

Does that broad appeal mean Trump doesn't have base voters?
Not exactly. Trump over-performs among those looking for an outsider, as well as among seniors and political moderates. But in his acceptance speech Trump gave a wince-worthy shoutout to his most reliable cohort of voters. "We won with the poorly educated," Trump declared, referring to his 57 percent support among voters with a high school degree or less.

Trump added, tenderly: "I love the poorly educated!"

What does it all mean?
Heading into Super Tuesday next week, Trump has what every candidate wants: The Big Mo. The banner headline on the Drudge Report Tuesday night said it all, screaming of Trump: "THE NOMINEE."