Donald Trump's projected win in the Nevada GOP caucus Tuesday can only be described as sweeping, according to the results of the NBC News Entrance Poll. As in the past three contests, the billionaire real estate mogul performed best among Republican voters who were looking for a candidate who "tells it like it is," receiving 86 percent of their support. He also did extremely well among those who want the next president to come from outside the political establishment, getting 70 percent of this group's vote.
With so little polling headed into Nevada's Republican caucuses, it was difficult to know what to expect. Donald Trump was widely seen as the favorite, few expected a blowout.
We saw one anyway. As the dust settles, Trump appears to have won in a landslide, finishing with 45.9% of the vote. Marco Rubio was a distant second with 23.9%, followed by Ted Cruz in third with 21.4%.
It's Trump's third consecutive win, and his largest margin of victory to date. In Nevada, the GOP frontrunner ran over his rivals like they were speed bumps.
This is ordinarily about the time pundits start telling the public how impressive Marco Rubio's triumphant second-place showing really was. And while I don't doubt some will make a valiant effort to put a pro-Rubio spin on the Nevada results, his latest failure is almost certainly the most devastating to date.
Indeed, Rubio was supposed to win the Nevada caucuses. Consider:
* Rubio lived in Nevada and he still has many extended family members in the state.
* Rubio invested heavily in the state, running far more ads than any other Republican, seeing it as a real opportunity for a key victory.
* Rubio enjoyed the support of Nevada's Republican governor, Republican senator, two of the state's three Republican congressmen, and the editorial board of Nevada's largest newspaper. Among GOP lawmakers in the state legislature, Rubio received more than double the number of endorsements than his next closest rival.
* As recently as December, Nevada was described as Rubio's "firewall" -- the state he could count on winning, even if all else fails.
It's against this backdrop that Rubio lost by 22 points. Nevada has 16 counties, and Rubio fell short in each of them.
The Florida senator's communications director last night applauded Rubio's "strong finish in Nevada." It's hard to imagine even the most sycophantic supporter actually believing this.
Rubio's double-digit loss in South Carolina, despite the state Republican establishment's overwhelming backing, was embarrassing. A 22-point loss in Nevada, however, is almost certainly worse.