Billionaire businessman Donald Trump continued his domination of the Republican selection process Tuesday as he recorded huge wins both in Nevada and Churchill County where he outdistanced second-place Marco Rubio in the state’s First in the West caucus.
According to The Associated Press, a tight race for second occurred between Rubio and Ted Cruz, yet the overall finish offered little evidence that the state’s Republicans were ready to coalesce around one strong alternative to Trump.
“It’s going to be an amazing two months,” he told a raucous crowd at a Las Vegas casino on Tuesday night. “We might not even need the two months, folks, to be honest.”
With 100 percent of the 1,343 votes in from Churchill County’s 19 precincts, Trump garnered 538 votes, followed by Rubio, 342; Cruz, 312; Dr. Ben Carson, 108; and John Kasich, 42. All but Kasich campaigned feverishly this week in Nevada prior to the caucus. Of the remaining candidates vying for the Republican presidential nomination only Rubio visited Fallon. He spoke to community leaders in a special meeting followed by a rally at the convention center on Sept. 1.
Tuesday’s voting was heavy among the precincts representing Churchill County as a long line snaked from just north of the redo grounds entrance to the multi-purpose building. Participation was lighter among the city’s six precincts.
“I was very happy with the turnout, but I am convinced we need a different system to make it work in a more organized manner,” said Dr. Stuart Richardson, chairman of the Churchill County Central Republican Committee.
Richardson said he had concerns when 300 to 400 people had to stand in line to enter the multi-purpose building.
If Nevada is still a caucus state in 2020, Richardson said he has ideas on how to improve the process.
“We need to change the hours, expand,” he said. “I think having the caucus before voting allows people to sit with their friends and discuss.”
The caucus process differed from the Democrats’ voting. Republicans could cast a vote and leave or sit down with others in their precincts. The Democrats discussed their two candidates and then voted in their precincts.
No matter how Republican attendees felt, the majority did not mind the caucus format and many were willing to promote the candidate for whom they vote.
As for Trump winning the caucus, Richardson said he wasn’t surprised.
“Trump is riding a wave, but I was thinking the endorsements for Rubio would allow him to do better. Cruz was riding high in Iowa, but he’s been slipping a lot. He’s taken a beating in the media and in the debates.”
Gary Utterback, an Army veteran, said he likes the caucus and the huge showing of voters.
“It’s like seeing a boatload of people out here,” he said, adding this is the third caucus he has attended. “I’m a frequent flier at the caucuses.”
Utterback said he favored Cruz after looking closely at each candidate’s background.
“With his background in constitutional law, he comes across as a strong candidate,” Utterback added.
John and Susan Marinucci agreed on one thing and split on another.
Although John Mariucci said the Republican caucus’ format was as easy as primary elections, he said the restricted hours exclude many.
“My son works at night, but he couldn’t make it,” John Mariucci said.
Susan Mariucci agreed, saying a primary allows people to vote longer during the day.
They both however, differ on their favorite candidates. John Mariucci, a Navy veteran who voted in his first caucus, said Cruz is a true conservative, and he likes the Texas senator’s platform on turning federal lands to the states.
Susan Mariucci said Trump’s background as a businessman appeals to her.
“The U.S. is a businesses,” she said.
R.J. Thomas also agreed with Cruz’s stance on returning federal land to the states, including Nevada.
“Cruz is the only one looking to restore Nevada’s state rights and properties,” said Thomas, a retired Navy SEAL. “He is the only one who has a sound position on gun ownership, and the only one who will protect the Constitution as it is.”
Hank Whole, a retired educator and Army veteran, said this year’s election in Nevada is interesting considering the voters’ rebellion with the establishment.
“I’m stirring the pot up for Trump,” he said.
Whole said he would like to see a president oversee Pentagon spending much better.
“The Pentagon has been totally dysfunctional for the last two wars,” he said.
Standing in front of the multi-purpose building were Susan Thompson and Ashley Pargett, both holding up Rubio signs.
“I agree with most of his policies,” Thompson said, adding she saw him in Fallon. “He is a good man and will be a good present.”
“He is most electable,” she explained. “Right now our country is very divided, and he’s the best candidate who could pull everything together.”
This is Pargett’s first caucus, and she said the process was easier than she thought.
“They have done a great job, very organized, and it went smoothly,” Thompson said. “Everyone is friendly, of course — they’re Republicans, my kind of people.”
Realtor Bob Getto said he preferred Kasich.
“He has the experience to be an effective leader and appeals to others,” Getto said, “but I will support the eventual nominee.”
As with the Democrat caucus, many teens who will be eligible to vote in November participated. Eric Sorensen, a high school senior who will be 18 in April, said it was amazing how many voters showed up at the caucus. Sorensen said he liked Trump for his confidence and Cruz for the way he clearly states his ideas.
Young Republicans Haley Lindsay and Eric Sabatino volunteered at one of the tables.
“I think it’s awesome all the Republicans coming down,” she said.
Likewise, Sabatino said he was impressed with the involvement of those who attended.