Likely nominee Donald Trump crafts his choleric coalition

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a caucus rally on Tuesday night in Las Vegas

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a caucus rally on Tuesday night in Las Vegas

    With his smashing victory in Nevada last night, dominating the shrunken Republican field in virtually all voter categories, Donald Trump is now well-poised to win the presidential nomination.

    That’s a sentence I never figured on writing.

    It’s sickening to think that this guy is creeping ever closer to taking ownership of the nuclear football, but, hey, we better get used to it. Because his ticked-off devotees are calling the shots, and the rest of the GOPers are either too flummoxed to stop him, too fearful to even try, or simply reconciling themselves to his rise.

    He has now won New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. Before last night, he seemed to be capped at roughly 33 percent — but in Nevada, he shattered the ceiling and finished with 46 percent. Any candidate who wins three very different states in rapid succession, growing his vote and dominating all voter categories, has to be considered the likely nominee.

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    And realistically, who’s going to halt his march six days from now on delegate-rich Super Tuesday? Marco Rubio — who finished a distant second last night, with roughly half of the voters that Trump garnered? Most of the caucusing Nevadans were clearly unimpressed with his newly annointed establishment status.

    Do you think Trump can be stopped by Ted Cruz? Last night, the much-hated ideologue finished behind Rubio, and couldn’t even win the Christian conservatives. Cruz might do OK in some of the southern Super Tuesday states, but he’s on a glide path to futility.

    Do you think Trump is threatened by John Kasich? Please. He’s even trailing Trump in his own state of Ohio.

    Granted, only a fraction of Nevadans participated in the Republican caucuses; indeed, GOP turnout (roughly 75,000) was smaller than the Democrats’ tally (84,000). So I suppose we can comfort ourselves with the thought that Trump’s triumph doesn’t reflect general citizen sentiment. But motivated voters are the ones who shape our history; the people who sit on their butts at home aid and abet with their apathy.

    And what motivates Trump’s fans is anger. If you check out the Nevada exit polls, you’ll quickly realize that the guy is crafting a broad-based choleric coalition.

    He won men. He won women. He dominated all age brackets (except for the under-30s). He won the whites. He won the non-whites (eight percent of the GOP electorate was Hispanic — and he won them, too.) He won every education bracket (especially high school or less; as he declared last night, “I love the poorly educated”). He won the voters who call themselves “very conservative” (that was supposed to be Cruz’s crowd). He even won the “moderates.” He handily won the evangelical Christians.

    Most importantly, 61 percent of the Nevada voters said they want someone “outside the political establishment,” and 59 percent said they were “angry” — and Trump dominated in both categories. It doesn’t matter that Trump trolls in the conspiracy sewer (Obama’s birth; Scalia dying with a pillow over his head, hmmm), and it doesn’t matter that his policy platform is one page adorned with the word “Me,” and it doesn’t matter that he lies like Dick Nixon on a bender. What we have here is a candidate forging a visceral connection. What we have here is a brand new GOP, detached from its establishment moorings, sailing off in uncharted waters.

    And, drip by drip, you can hear Republicans starting to mutter their surrender.

    On Sunday, hapless national chairman Reince Priebus said he’d be fine with Trump at the helm this fall, because “winning is the antidote to a lot of things. And so the name of the game is winning in November.” (To Priebus, winning at the expense of one’s soul seems like a fair trade.) Yesterday, House majority leader Kevin McCarthy said he’s ready and willing to do his duty: “I think I’ll work with Donald Trump.” Scott Reed, a former Republican strategist now based at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has been inching toward Trump, and grassroots business types are telling the press that they’re starting to Feel the Don. Richard Edwards, president of an electrical contracting firm in Pennsylvania, says of Trump, “My friends are now seeing something in him.”

    This is democracy, people. Although it feels more like a nascent American version of autocracy. Led by a demagogue with an instinctive genius for exploiting discontent and deepening the chasms that divide us. If he wins the nomination and wins in November, with explosive turnout from his choleric coalition, suffice it to say that we get what we deserve.

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

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