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It's All Trump, But What Does It Mean?

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AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives for a caucus night rally Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016, in Las Vegas.

Republican voters gave billionaire Donald Trump a landslide victory here in the GOP caucuses in Nevada.

Trump soundly defeated the main two contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and Florida Senator,and former Las Vegas resident Marco Rubio.

Even the combined votes of Cruz and Rubio would not have defeated Trump, who took 47 percent of the caucus vote.

Trump touted his support among virtually all walks of life.

"We won with the evangelicals. We won with young, we won with old, we won with highly educated. We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated " Trump said as the vote totals came in. He was at the TI resort on the Las Vegas Strip. 

He went on. "And you know what I really love, because I’ve been saying it a long time. 46 percent with the Hispanics. 46 percent. Number one with Hispanics."

Co-host and producer for KNPR's State of Nevada Carrie Kaufman was at a caucus site in Sun City Anthem. Because the community is age-restricted, almost everyone at the site was retired or older and still working. Beyond that, Kaufman said the people she talked with expressed a lot of anger.

"People were angry. People had a sense that things were slipping away from them and that Donald Trump, most of them were voting for Trump, was saying the things that people wanted to hear but were afraid to say."

Kaufman said people didn't talk about specific policies of Trump's they agreed with but just expressed agreement with him.

"They didn't really talk about policies. Everybody just said, 'he's going to do what he said he was going to do.' Then I would say, 'What does he say he was going to do?'... but there wasn't many specifics."

David Tristan, a retired prison warden from California there to vote for Rubio, said: "On the national level, he [Pres. Barack Obama] has pitted poor against rich, black against white, police against criminals. Bernie Sanders is using that to say that the criminal justice rounds up minorities to throw them into prison. That doesn't happen. We have a criminal justice system that people get arrested, they have due process, they go through the court process. Where do most of the crimes occur? It is minorities killing one another not police killing minorities or going in doing roundups. It makes it almost sound like we're a Nazi Germany. And the Nazis were going into the Jewish ghettos and rounding up all the Jews. That isn't happening. We have process. We have a nation of laws." 

Kaufman said she managed to find one millennial in the estimated 1,000 people at the site.

David Denison, 26 and a Trump supporter said: “First and foremost, I don’t want Hillary to win at any cost. So I don’t care who I have to vote for as long it keeps her out of the office. I think if it was a race between Bernie and Donald Trump I would probably be voting differently but I think Hillary is going to be the nomination for the Democratic Party and I believe Donald Trump is the only one who can defeat Hillary and that’s why I’m voting Donald Trump.”

The big take away for Kaufman was that many people felt that the world is great and it’s really the complainers who are causing problems.

“People were saying, ‘What are people complaining about? … There are no problems in the world. It’s just people who are rabble rousing that are causing the problems in the world. That’s pretty much it. We have processes. It’s a just world and the things that Bernie Sanders are saying are not true and it’s just getting people angry and pitting the rich against the poor. There’s no inequality. It’s just people saying there is inequality and getting people angry.’”

Kaufman also found a number of people unhappy with the caucus process who were eager to see it changed to a primary instead.

KNPR’s State of Nevada producer Fred Wasser went to a caucus site at Bonanza High School, which is near Charleston Boulevard and Torrey Pines Drive.

Wasser said there were between 1,500 and 2,000 people at the polling site. The crowd was mostly white and mostly over 50. He said many people were unhappy about the long lines and the lack of speeches.

He spoke with a Latina about who she was voting for and why.

Erica Magana: “ Who are you supporting? Ted Cruz. He’s the one that I feel like… he is more honest. The one I can trust and just stands for what I believe in.

What issue or issues is most important to you? Right now, immigration, pro-life, defending our Christian values, education because I’m not crazy about Common Core. There’s so many.

Is the fact that Ted Cruz has Cuban origins important to you?  Not really. It doesn’t really matter to me what ethnicity the candidate is. It’s more about their faith and if they stand strong to their Christian values. That’s what I care about more than that.

Wasser also talked with a man who was undecided.

Phillip Flaherty former president of the Desert Inn said: “It is kind of unusual. I’ve been voting since 1976. Most of the time when I’ve come to elections and the election process, it’s always been with people with a passion and an energy for a particular cause. This time people are voting out of anger. They’re frustrated. They want to see a change and they’re just sick and tired of the crap going on.”

Wasser said a lot of people he spoke with blamed Pres. Obama for the economy not being better and for much of the strife in the world.

“The Republicans I spoke to were really ready to vote for any Republican just to make sure Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders were not the next president,” he said.

So now that the Nevada caucus process is over, what does it all mean?

Political columnist for the Reno Gazette-Journal and host of “Ralston Live” on Vegas PBS Jon Ralston said Trump really shouldn’t be bragging about winning the Hispanic vote Tuesday night.

“It’s not as big a deal as he makes it out to be, but nothing is as big a deal as Donald Trump makes it out to be,” Ralston quipped. “Yes, he won Hispanics but it’s a very low percentage of Republican voters. And the real problem for Donald Trump is with Hispanic voters in the general election where he has to avoid getting so crushed that he can’t win the general elections.

Trump also bragged about grabbing the ‘poorly educated vote.’

“It’s not just that he won the poorly educated, although he dominates the poorly educate cohort in all polls, he’s winning across all demographic lines and he’s crossing moderate, somewhat conservative, very conservative and that’s what’s worrisome not just to Republicans but to some extent some Democrats are starting to wake up and say, ‘wait a second, this guy is creating a different dynamic in the country and we better start taking him seriously.’ And the big problem with the Republican establishment is they took way too long to take him seriously.”

Ralston believes Trump’s win may be felt in Nevada before the November election:

“The real question for us here in Nevada is not just what this bodes for November but what does this bode for the Republican Party here in the June primary where you’re going to have a lot of primary challenges to incumbents trying to tap into the Trump-like anger that is out there in the electorate and whether that can translate into local races.”

As the field narrows and people start to look towards a general election race, the questions arise about how Trump would handle himself in an area where more details may be needed:

“What makes you think details need to emerge?” Ralston asked host Joe Schoenmann, “That is a singularly optimistic view of the world Joe!”

“If the matchup is Trump and Hillary Clinton, we can’t be sure of that but that is what it is looking like, I think it is going to be one of the ugliest elections we have ever seen because Trump clearly has no fear. He is willing to bring up anything and everything about someone and their personal life and there husband’s personal life and that’s what’s going to characterize that race. It’s not going to be who has the better immigration plan or who has the better plan for the economy.”

If it’s Trump vs. Clinton, do you care to say who will win the state?

“I think that Hillary Clinton is still the favorite to win this state for a variety of different reasons. First, she has a tremendous organization here. And even though Trump seems to do well in primaries and caucuses without organization, he’s really going to have to erect one here that doesn’t exist now and I just don’t believe there is going to be a lot of enthusiasm among the others running for Trump at the top of the ticket. The Democratic Party here is so much better than the Republican Party in presidential years. I think that Hillary Clinton is a favorite, but you know that’s a long way off. 

Jon Ralston, Reno Gazette-Journal columnist; host of "Ralston Live" on Vegas PBS;  Carrie Kaufman, host/producer, KNPR's State of Nevada;  Fred Wasser, producer, KNPR's State of Nevada

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.
Since June 2015, Fred has been a producer at KNPR's State of Nevada.