I tweeted this out last night, but I really can’t care about second-place finishes when the second-place candidate loses by 22 points. There are no “moral victories” in that circumstance. Simply put, Nevada was New Hampshire all over again. Trump dominated, and his competitors finished mired in a muddle of mediocrity. We are truly no closer to a one-on-one race (even Ben Carson is vowing to fight on), and Trump has — for the first time — flirted with crossing the decisive 50 percent barrier.
How dominant was Trump? You could have combined Rubio and Cruz, consolidated all their voters, and “Cruzio” would have still lost to Trump. How dominant was Trump? He won the Hispanic vote. How dominant was Trump? He won Evangelicals by 14 points.
This race isn’t over, but it’s perilously close, and all this talk of a “long battle” is just so much hot air until Rubio or Cruz prove they can consistently finish even within ten points of Trump. Yes, Cruz won Iowa, but Iowa is proving so far to be just as aberrational as it was in 2008 and 2012.
Rubio and Cruz have a grand total of six campaigning days to avoid a Super Tuesday rout so decisive that in any ordinary cycle it would cause the GOP to unite in a deafening call for the race to end and for the front-runner to roll forward with the party behind him and money in the bank. Yet I fully expect them to double down on the failed strategy of attacking each other with far more enthusiasm than they attack Trump – a strategy almost perfectly-calculated to drive Cruz voters to Trump if Cruz keeps losing and alienate Rubio voters from a man (Cruz) that many of them already see as a practitioner of dirty tricks.
In short, last night was Trump’s night. There is no other narrative.