Trump's momentum grows ahead of Super Tuesday
Steven R. Hurst , The Associated Press
Published Wednesday, February 24, 2016 12:32AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 24, 2016 8:46PM EST
WASHINGTON -- Donald Trump's campaign for the Republican presidential nomination is building a momentum that may sweep away challenges by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, with his crushing win in the Nevada caucuses marking a third straight victory in state contests.
Rubio captured second place with fewer than 2,000 more votes than Cruz as final vote totals were reported Wednesday morning.
Trump, the billionaire New York businessman, now can claim victories in the West, the South and Northeast -- a testament to his broad appeal among voters frustrated with the political establishment. His rivals are running out of time to stop him.
On Wednesday, Trump won his first endorsements from sitting members of Congress, with Reps. Duncan Hunter of California and Chris Collins of New York announcing they are backing him for the Republican presidential nomination.
"We're winning, winning, winning the country," Trump declared Tuesday. "Soon, the country is going to start winning, winning, winning."
Listing the upcoming primary states where he's leading in preference polls, Trump predicted he'll soon be able to claim the 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. Trump won 14 delegates in Nevada. Rubio won seven, and Ted got six. Overall, Trump has 82 delegates so far. Cruz has 17 and Rubio 16.
Rubio and Cruz are battling to emerge as the clear alternative to Trump. Lagging behind in the Republican race are Ohio Gov. John Kasich and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.
The race for the nomination in both major political parties has produced candidates who reflect a deepening anger among American voters with the gridlock during much of the Obama administration. Trump and Cruz in particular have found strong support among such voters.
Entrance polls in Nevada captured the sentiment propelling Trump's insurgent campaign: Six in 10 caucus goers said they were angry with the way the government is working, and Trump got about half of them.
After winning in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, Trump has momentum heading into March 1, or Super Tuesday. It is the biggest single-day delegate haul of the nomination contests. Republicans will vote in 11 states, with 595 delegates at stake. Democrats will vote in 11 states and American Samoa, with 865 delegates up for grabs.
On Wednesday, 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 Sen. Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist, who has put up a strong challenge to front-runner and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
Clinton was looking for a commanding victory over 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 next week.
Adding to her momentum on Wednesday, the Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid endorsed Clinton for the presidential nomination.
AP writers Nancy Benac and Chad Day in Washington and Steve Peoples and Nicholas Riccardi in Las Vegas contributed to this report.