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Donald Trump builds momentum with Nevada win

Published 24/02/2016

Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump has won the Nevada caucuses (AP)
Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump has won the Nevada caucuses (AP)

Donald Trump's campaign for the Republican US presidential nomination is building a momentum that may sweep away challenges by Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, with his crushing win in the Nevada caucuses marking a third straight victory in state contests.

Florida senator Mr Rubio captured second place with fewer than 2,000 more votes than Texas senator Mr Cruz as final vote totals were reported.

Mr Trump, the billionaire New York businessman, can now claim victories in the west, the south and north east - a testament to his broad appeal among voters. His rivals are running out of time to stop him.

"We're winning, winning, winning the country," Mr Trump declared. "Soon, the country is going to start winning, winning, winning."

Listing the upcoming primary states where he is leading in preference polls, Mr Trump predicted he will soon be able to claim the Republican presidential nomination.

"It's going to be an amazing two months," he told a raucous crowd at a Las Vegas casino. "We might not even need the two months, folks, to be honest."

A candidate must have 1,237 state delegates to win the Republican nomination at the National Convention this summer.

Mr Trump won 14 delegates in Nevada. Mr Rubio won seven, and Mr Cruz got six. Overall, Mr Trump has 81 delegates so far, and Mr Cruz and Mr Rubio have 17 apiece.

The race for the nomination in both major political parties has produced candidates who reflect a deepening anger among American voters with the nation's political establishment and the gridlock for much of the Obama administration.

Mr Trump and Mr Cruz in particular have found strong support among those voters, who express concerns over terrorism, immigration and an economy whose recovery from the Great Recession has mostly benefited the country's most wealthy.

Entrance polls captured the sentiment propelling Mr Trump's insurgent campaign: Six in 10 caucus-goers said they were angry with the way the government is working, and Mr Trump got about half of them.

After winning in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, Mr Trump has momentum heading into March 1, or Super Tuesday, when Republicans hold nominating contests in a dozen states.

But on Wednesday, Mr Cruz won the endorsement of the governor in his home state of Texas, the largest of the Super Tuesday states.

On the Democrat side, impatient voters have rallied around Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist, who has put up a strong challenge to front-runner and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

Mrs Clinton was looking for a commanding victory over Mr Sanders in Saturday's South Carolina primary to give her a boost heading into Super Tuesday. Polls show the former first lady with a huge advantage among African-Americans, which bodes well for her prospects in the southern states that vote on Super Tuesday.

Nevada was a critical test for Mr Rubio and Mr Cruz, who are battling to emerge as the clear alternative to Mr Trump. Lagging far behind in the Nevada vote were Ohio governor John Kasich and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

Mr Rubio, already campaigning in Michigan as Nevada results rolled in, was projecting confidence that he can consolidate the non-Trump voters, saying "we have incredible room to grow".

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

Later on Wednesday, Mr Trump won his first endorsements from sitting members of Congress, with Duncan Hunter of California and Chris Collins of New York announcing they are backing him for the Republican presidential nomination.

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