Donald Trump was the winner by a double-digit margin of the Nevada Republican caucus Tuesday night, with Marco Rubio scoring a tight second place finish ahead of Ted Cruz.
The New York businessman took 46 percent of the vote with 100 percent of precincts reporting. Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) received 24 percent, edging out Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) for second place by less than three points. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Ohio Gov. John Kasich followed far behind with 5 percent and 4 percent, respectively.
The results out of Nevada followed wins for Trump in New Hampshire and, later, South Carolina. In both states, he bested his competitors for the nomination by double-digit margins.
"We weren’t expected to win too much and now we’re winning, winning, winning the country," Trump said during remarks celebrating his victory late Tuesday night. "And soon the country is going to start winning, winning, winning."
Polling in Nevada had been sparse, but two surveys released in February showed Trump leading the Republican field in the state, capturing as much as 45 percent of the vote among likely GOP caucusgoers. The surveys accurately forecasted a tight race for second place between Cruz and Rubio.
According to a CNN/ORC poll conducted following the primary in New Hampshire, Rubio maintained a slight two-point lead over Cruz in Nevada, edging him out for second place with 19 percent. All other candidates lagged behind with 7 points or less each. Six-in-10 Nevada voters said that they had definitely decided on their choice.
The early primary contests have largely pointed to a three-man race between Trump, Cruz, and Rubio. The results in Nevada Tuesday confirmed the three candidates as the top competitors in the field.
Trump’s unconventional presidential campaign has defied expectations. The businessman has been atop national polls for months despite controversial statements about women, Mexicans, Muslims, Michael Jackson, his fellow candidates, and, more recently, Pope Francis. Trump has taken aim at Cruz in recent days, accusing the Texas senator of "[lying] like a dog."
Cruz established himself as a competitor by winning the Republican caucus in Iowa, where an impressive third-place finish from Rubio solidified the Florida senator’s strength. Rubio and Cruz were locked in a tight battle for second place in South Carolina last week, the former edging out the latter by a mere two-tenths of a percentage point.
Rubio received a slew of significant endorsements this week ahead of Nevada, including those from former Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole, Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
Since the Iowa caucus at the start of February, the GOP field has narrowed considerably. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore all suspended their campaigns between the announcement of the Iowa caucus results and the immediate aftermath of the New Hampshire primary.
Following a disappointing performance in South Carolina, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush also ended his presidential ambitions. Bush, a brother and son to former U.S. presidents, was once viewed by some as the frontrunner for the nomination.
The Nevada GOP caucus followed the state’s Democratic caucus, which took place on Saturday. Hillary Clinton beat Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) by 6 points there after registering a 22-point loss in New Hampshire earlier this month.