Donald Trump won Tuesday's Republican caucuses in Nevada by a wide margin, US networks projected, giving the billionaire businessman his third straight victory in the race for the White House.
Early projections gave Trump 42 percent of the vote, with senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas trailing.
The contest was the fourth for the Republican presidential candidates, with Trump so far winning in New Hampshire and South Carolina. He came in second in Iowa.
"Thank you Nevada, We will make America safe and great again," Trump tweeted as the results rolled in.
As the returns trickled in, CNN and Fox News had Rubio in second place with about 25 percent of the vote and Cruz in third place with about 22 percent.
Turnout was high, exceeding all expectations, with some caucus sites running low on ballots.
The remaining two candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Ohio Governor John Kasich, came in at about seven percent and four percent, respectively.
'It's getting increasingly difficult to see past Donald Trump'
The results underscored the enormous challenge Trump's rivals face as the candidates head into next week's all important "Super Tuesday" contests involving 11 states.
“Super Tuesday is really the last chance to get the field narrow to the point where someone can beat Trump,” said Ian Reifowitz, a professor at SUNY Empire State College.
'Looks like a winner'
The real estate mogul had been all but certain to triumph in Nevada, with the big question being which candidate would come in second.
If confirmed, Rubio’s second place will buttress his credentials as Trump’s main challenger, though he still faces an uphill battle to turn the primaries into a one-on-one contest.
“If after Super Tuesday Rubio hasn’t won at least a couple of big states I think it will be very difficult for him to catch up with Trump,” Reifowitz told FRANCE 24.
“The more Trump wins the more he looks like a winner, and the more he looks like a winner the more […] undecided voters will break towards him,” he added.
Although the caucus in Nevada is not expected to have a significant impact on the overall race -- only 30 delegates or slightly more than one percent of the total are up for grabs -- it was the first contest for the Republicans in the US West.
It is also the first test of Republican voter sentiment after Jeb Bush pulled out of the race last week following a poor showing in South Carolina.
And candidates here faced the most diverse electorate thus far in the race, more representative of the US population as a whole.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2016-02-24