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Trump scoops up votes, right and center

25 February 2016, 08:30

Washington - Donald Trump wins, wins, wins, just as he said he would. From the Republican camp's ultra-conservative fringes to the mainstream the White House hopeful is assembling a formidable coalition of angry voters that may well carry him to the party nomination in July.

"So we won 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 exulted Tuesday night after his victory in the Nevada caucuses, accurately citing the findings of entrance polls there.

"Of course, if you listened to the pundits, we weren't expected to win too much and now we'[re winning, winning, winning the country. And soon, the country is going to start winning, winning, winning."

Trump's chances of accomplishing that are better now that he has shown he is not just a single faction candidate.

He has come in first in nominating contests in three very different states: New Hampshire, where more than a quarter of voters described themselves as "moderates;" in South Carolina, where three quarters of voters were evangelical Christians; and Nevada, where 15 percent of voters were "non whites," the highest proportion of minorities to date in the Republican primaries.

Also Read: Donald Trump notches 3rd straight win in Nevada caucuses

The real estate billionaire has systematically scored best with Americans who did not finish high school. But he also has been dominant with college educated voters.

He has the wind in his sails in the 11 states, including Texas and much of the South, that vote in next Tuesday's primaries. A quarter of the delegates to the Republican nominating convention are in play in the Super Tuesday blow-out.

To his rear, Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas are fighting for second place. Two other more marginal candidates also remain in the race: Ohio Governor John Kasich and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

In each state, pollsters ask a sampling of Republican voters if they are "angry" or "dissatisfied" with the federal government: about 90 percent say yes. Four years ago, the question was: do you support the Tea Party?

It is this well of discontent that Trump has tapped more successfully than any of his predecessors.

Rejection of elites

Cary Covington, a political scientist at the University of Iowa, sees a thread linking the current mood to the "law and order" movement in 1960s, the Reagan Democrats of the 1980s, and even the "moral majority" of the 1990s.

What they all have in common, he says, is that beyond their disappointment with the Republican party's perceived failure to deliver on its conservative promises, these voters are disillusioned, disenchanted.

"One enduring and incredibly large pattern that has been occurring over the last 30, 40 years has been the eroding trust that Americans have in their political institutions," Covington told AFP.

"The well is tainted for the Republican party, no matter who the Republicans put up," he said. "If it's seen as someone connected to the establishment that has in their eyes lied to them time and time again, that person is unacceptable."

Ideological flexibility

In theory, Republican support for Trump was supposed to hit a ceiling, but in Nevada he appears to have crashed through it. He won 46 percent, far more than the roughly 30 percent he had typically polled before.

The polls also indicate that among Hispanic voters, who accounted for eight percent of the Republicans voting in Nevada, 46 percent voted for Trump. So part of the Latino electorate appears not to have been put off by Trump smearing Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists.

Trump may have further room to grow because he is not ideologically fixed. He was a Democrat for a long time. This year, on issues like gun control and abortion, he is ultra-conservative.

But he also knows how to lure centrists. He has said repeatedly he wants to abolish President Barack Obama's signature reform of the health care system. At the same time, he promises that under a Trump presidency, "People are not going to die in the middle of the street."

Also Read: Donald Trump's favorite excuse? It was just a 'retweet'

Trump describes himself as a conservative by nature, but his vision of capitalism is tinged with protectionism.

"I am a free trader, I believe in free trade, but it has to smart trade, it can't be rip-off trade, it has to be smart," he said.

Covington believes this ideological flexibility may in the end make a president Trump more acceptable to the Republican establishment than Ted Cruz, a stubborn champion of the ideological right who is detested by most of his colleagues in Congress.

Trump on Wednesday received his first endorsements from sitting members of Congress, from the Republicans Chris Collins of New York State and Duncan Hunter of California.

"I think it's pretty clear. We're going to embrace whoever the nominee is," Reince Priebus, the head of the Republican National Committee, said on CNN.



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