LAS VEGAS (CN) – Donald Trump’s stand on immigration did not stop him from tromping his opponents in the first state with a significant Latino population, as he took more votes than Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz combined in the Nevada Republican Caucus on Tuesday.
Trump took 45.6 percent of the votes to Rubio’s 23.3 percent and Cruz’s 22.1 percent, with 85 percent of the votes counted early Wednesday. That gave him a projected 12 Nevada delegates for the presidential nomination. Rubio and Cruz each got five.
Trump rolled to his third straight victory the day after he reacted to a protester by telling a crowd he wanted to “punch him in the face.”
As he was declared the winner Tuesday night, Trump said, in typical fashion, that he would wrap up the presidential nomination quickly. “It’s going to be an amazing two months,” he said. “We might not even need the two months, to be honest.”
Thousands of Trump supporters lined the hallways of the Treasure Island casino Tuesday night, awaiting his victory speech.
“I want someone who will do something for the people of West Virginia, Kentucky, and places like that,” said a middle-aged female Trump supporter from Dayton, Ohio.
Trump was declared the winner shortly after 9 p.m. Ben Carson finished fourth, 7.2 percent of the votes, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich was fifth with 3.8 percent.
The win indicates Trump’s stance on immigration may not hurt him in heavily Latino states.
About 27 percent of Nevada’s 2.84 million residents are Latino, but Trump trumped both Cruz and Rubio, both of whom spent much more than Trump on advertising here.
Rubio spent $920,000, Cruz $790,000 and Trump $490,000 on political ads in Nevada, according to Kantar Media/CMAG. Carson spent $330,000, and Kasich nothing on political ads in Nevada.
Nevada had 30 delegates at stake Tuesday. Candidates needed at least 3.3 percent of the vote to win a delegate.
The Nevada Republican Party avoided its 2012 caucus debacle, in which polling results were delayed for days. This year the party teamed with The Associated Press to begin reporting results immediately upon the closing of the polls at 9 p.m.
Site managers used smartphones to record results and distribute them to county and state parties and to The Associated Press.
The mood was more subdued at Reno High School, one of the caucus sites 450 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Voters there calmly discussed pros and cons of each candidate and expressed concerns over the divided Republican party.
Some were unhappy with the caucus process.
“We should go back to the primary system,” Casey Titus said. “We aren’t Iowa; we don’t know how to do this.”
Titus was disappointed by the low turnout at his site. “Nobody has come to my table in 30 minutes,” he said, “so I’m going home.”
Cruz brought some excitement to Reed High School in Sparks, where an estimated 2,000 caucus voters were expected.
(Courthouse News reporters Mike Heuer reported from Las Vegas, Laney Olson from Reno.)
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