NATION POLITICS TRAIL GUIDE

We'll probably never know whether Sanders or Clinton won the Latino vote in Nevada

A slightly smaller field of Republicans is racing to Nevada as the next GOP nominating contest comes just three days after Donald Trump's win in Saturday's South Carolina primary.

Hangin' tough with Marco Rubio

Ted Cruz highlights divisions with Trump in Nevada

Ted Cruz addresses supporters Sunday in Pahrump, Nev. (John Locher / Associated Press)
Ted Cruz addresses supporters Sunday in Pahrump, Nev. (John Locher / Associated Press)

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, in his first appearance since his third-place finish in South Carolina's Republican primary on Saturday, tried to woo voters here by highlighting differences between him and front-runner Donald Trump on land rights.

The federal government owns 85% of Nevada's land, and it's an issue of major concern among voters in the state. 

"That makes no sense. It's ridiculous," Cruz said of the statistic.

"There's an issue on which Donald Trump and I disagree," Cruz told reporters in a back room of a sports bar. Trump "has said the federal government should continue to own all that land. I think we should send it back to the people."

In an interview with Field & Stream magazine last month, Trump said he would not let states take control of federal lands.

"I don't like the idea because I want to keep the lands great, and you don't know what the state is going to do," Trump said. 

Cruz also dismissed his poorer-than-expected showing with evangelical voters in South Carolina, his core base of support. 

"Like any community, there is a division of opinion," he said. 

Back on the trail in Nevada, Ted Cruz brushes off his poorer-than-expected finish in South Carolina

Who really won the Latino vote in Nevada? We consider the evidence

 (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

Hillary Clinton beat Sen. Bernie Sanders in Nevada's caucuses Saturday, but the two campaigns are still battling for bragging rights on one important point: Who won the Latino vote?

The answer involves conflicting data, which partisans on both sides have cherry-picked to support their case.

Analysis: As both primaries lurch to the edge, any middle ground disappears

 (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Hillary Clinton usurped much of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ message and benefited hugely from the power of women and minorities in the Democratic Party as she reasserted command of the presidential nomination race with her victory in Nevada.

But trying to hold on to those groups and handle the party’s ideological leftward swing will be a tough task during what remains a lengthy nomination fight.

Meanwhile, as her party continues to shift to the left, Republicans face a mirror-image situation -- a rightward swing during this campaign that has put the party at odds with much of the country, whether the future nominee is front-runner Donald Trump or one of the other candidates fighting for prominence beneath him.

That growing division between the two parties seems set to make the job of president all the more difficult for whomever wins.

McNamara: How Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are ripping up Hollywood's presidential script

 (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

Like "Batman v. Superman," this presidential campaign has two key players who should make it a Hollywood dream come true.

The non-politician in the White House and the first female president are both staples of political film and television, enduring symbols of a deep-held desire to see a figure of democratic idealism and everyday common sense straighten out the byzantine shenanigans of our nation's capital.

On paper, the prospect of both making their way to November is fraught with dramatic possibilities: "Dave" by way of "Commander in Chief," "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" meets "Madam Secretary," and they are both on the hustings.

In reality, we have the campaigns of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

With Jeb Bush out, his donors ponder their options with one goal: stopping Trump

Donald Trump supporters celebrate in Spartanburg, S.C. (Olivier Douliery / Tribune News Service)
Donald Trump supporters celebrate in Spartanburg, S.C. (Olivier Douliery / Tribune News Service)

Donors who fueled Jeb Bush’s fundraising juggernaut were surprised by his decision to end his presidential bid Saturday but were already beginning Sunday to move on to other candidates in hopes of stopping Donald Trump.

Bobbie Kilberg and her husband, Bill, who were recently named finance committee co-chairs for Bush, said they decided Sunday morning that they would join Sen. Marco Rubio’s campaign.

“He has the best, and perhaps the only, chance now of coalescing the mainstream part of the party and hopefully winning the nomination and being the one person who I think can take on Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton,” said Kilberg, an influential GOP donor from Virginia. “I am very worried about nominating someone totally outside of the mainstream.”

Kilberg said she was contacted Sunday by the Rubio campaign as well as by people in her network.

“I started getting phone calls from people within my group of donors saying, ‘Where do we go now? We’ll go where you go,’” she said.

The couple initially supported New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie until he dropped out, and then joined Bush’s campaign Wednesday. She said she thought both men, whom she has long known and admired, couldn’t get through to voters because of all of the attention on Trump.

“I can’t explain it. This is the strangest political season I have ever seen,” Kilberg said.

Dale Dykema, founder of the Santa Ana-based T.D. Service Financial Corp. and a member of Bush’s finance committee, is also likely to support Rubio.

“There’s no way I can support either [Sen. Ted] Cruz or Trump, and I think Cruz is probably done for anyhow. I think it boils down to between Rubio and Trump,” he said. “I see no choice but to go with Rubio. I will do whatever I can to avoid Trump getting the nomination.”

Venture capitalist Bill Draper, who co-hosted a fundraiser for the super PAC supporting Bush in East Palo Alto, Calif., last year, agreed.

“I am totally astounded and horrified,” said Draper, the former president and chair of the Export-Import Bank of the United States.

He said would consider supporting Rubio or Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

“I liked the three governors who were running, and two have now dropped out,” he said. “The training that a governor gets is extraordinarily helpful in preparing one for president.”

But Draper, who attended Yale with Bush’s father, former President George H.W Bush, questioned the impact of money in an election season that has defied all predictions.

“I don’t think it’s up to the donors right now. I think it’s really up to voters,” he said.

Those casino caucuses that boosted Hillary Clinton? Her allies once fought them

To be filed under life’s little ironies: Hillary Clinton’s victory in the Nevada caucuses can be credited in good part to an overwhelming outpouring of support along the Las Vegas Strip, where she carried some precincts by landslide margins.

Clinton worked those "precincts" hard, courting casino employees and other shift workers in a final mad dash of campaigning.

Hillary Clinton takes a selfie with service workers at Rio All-Suite Las Vegas Hotel and Casino on Thursday. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images) None
Hillary Clinton takes a selfie with service workers at Rio All-Suite Las Vegas Hotel and Casino on Thursday. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

The notion of caucusing in casinos is good for laughs, playing into Las Vegas’ flaky-sybaritic image, but there is a practical reason for holding several “at-large” caucuses along the Strip. For many employees, it was the only way they could participate without taking time off work and losing a day’s pay.

As it turned out, a substantial number of those who voted Saturday were part of Clinton’s base among women and older Latinos.

Eight years ago, however, when Clinton first sought the White House, her allies went to federal court, trying to block the creation of casino caucuses.

Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, was particularly adamant, asserting the job-site balloting would unfairly give more weight to the votes of shift workers at a time when their union had endorsed then-Sen. Barack Obama.

A judge dismissed the lawsuit and a precedent was established, allowing for the casino caucusing that contributed to Clinton’s victory Saturday. (Clinton also ran strong on the Strip in 2008, carrying seven of nine caucuses on the way to a split decision; she took the popular vote but Obama won the most Nevada delegates.)

No hard feelings, it seems.

The Culinary Union, a target of the 2008 lawsuit, stayed neutral in the caucuses this time but sent several organizers to the Strip to make sure Saturday's vote came off smoothly.

Marco Rubio predicts he'll start winning now that the Republican field is narrower

Marco Rubio and his daughter Amanda during an election-night rally Saturday in Columbia, S.C. (John Bazemore / AP)
Marco Rubio and his daughter Amanda during an election-night rally Saturday in Columbia, S.C. (John Bazemore / AP)

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio predicted Sunday that he would break through and finally win Republican presidential primaries as he sought to frame the race as a three-man contest after the South Carolina primary.

“I feel more and more positive now going into some of these states … that our chances continue to grow now,” said Rubio, who finished second in South Carolina to Donald Trump, just edging Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

“Especially as we get into the winner-take-all states that are coming up soon, we have to start winning states and we will,” he predicted on Fox News.

Rubio finished 10 percentage points behind Trump, who also won the New Hampshire primary while Cruz won the Iowa caucuses. Rubio said it was difficult to win the first three contests because Trump had the support of about 30% of the voters while the remaining 70% was split among numerous candidates.

And as the field gets smaller, Rubio said, pointing to the exit Saturday of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, voters will be able to rally around an alternative to Trump.

“As this race continues to narrow, I think that will be easier and easier for that 70% to coalesce,” Rubio said.

Rubio dismissed the other candidates who finished out of the top three in South Carolina – Ohio Gov. John Kasich and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson -- as not running “full-scale national campaigns.”

He declined to call on Kasich and Carson to drop out but said a narrower contest would benefit the Republicans.

“The sooner we can coalesce the better we’re going to be as a party in general,” Rubio said.

In Rubio’s view, the race is between him, Trump and Cruz, and he immediately attacked Trump's broad promises and demanded policy specifics.

“You can't just say you’re going to make America great again. You have to explain how you’re going to do it,” Rubio said.

“At this stage in the campaign, voters deserve to know in great detail just exactly how it is that you are going to achieve some of these things that you’re saying you’re going to achieve with specific public policy,” Rubio said. “So I look forward to having a policy debate if we can make it a policy debate. We’ll see what direction he wants to go.”

I really don't even know what I mean because it was a long time ago, and who knows what was in my head?

Donald Trump, asked about his 2002 statements in favor of the Iraq war that contradict his campaign-trail assertions that he opposed invasion

Donald Trump dismisses talk of a contested Republican convention

Fresh off his victory in the South Carolina Republican presidential primary, Donald Trump said Sunday that while “certainly nobody’s unstoppable,” he thinks that he’s on his way to the nomination and that GOP leaders would not try to stop him at the party’s convention this summer.

“I don’t think we’re going to have … a brokered convention. I think it’s unlikely,” Trump told CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I think I’m doing better than that. And so far, I’m really on my way.”

He insisted he would draw support from "Reagan Democrats" in a way that other Republicans can't.

He described his victories in the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries as blowouts. Trump also said he noted he finished “a very, very close" second to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the only other contest, the Iowa caucuses, while asserting again that “I think I actually won Iowa.”

But Trump said his push toward the Republican presidential nomination still could be stopped, while taking a swipe at former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who dropped out of the race Saturday night after a disappointing fourth-place finish.

“I’m dealing with very talented people. They’re politicians. They’re senators, and I guess, do we have any governors left? I don’t know. … I don’t think so,” Trump said. “But we have a lot of talented people and we’ll see what happens but certainly nobody’s unstoppable.”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who was battling Bush for fourth in South Carolina, remains in the race.

Asked about Bush, who had been the front-runner for the nomination when he launched his campaign last summer, Trump said it “wasn’t his time.”

”I like him. He’s a good person. He’s a good man,” said Trump, who had sparred with Bush throughout the campaign, repeatedly labeling him as “low-energy.”

Trump said he thought Bush would have won the Republican nomination four years ago, but was unable to gain traction in a 2016 race fueled by anti-establishment anger.

“It wasn’t meant to be,” Trump said of Bush’s quest for the nomination.

“Jeb fought very hard. It wasn’t his time,” Trump said. “He’s a very capable person. It just wasn’t his time.”

How Hillary Clinton won the Nevada caucuses

Voters wait to caucus for Hillary Clinton in Las Vegas. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Voters wait to caucus for Hillary Clinton in Las Vegas. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Hillary Clinton built her victory over Sen. Bernie Sanders in Nevada on the strength of her support among women and minorities, the voting blocs that her campaign confidently predicts will carry her toward the Democratic nomination in the next several rounds of primaries.

According to a poll of voters entering caucus sites around the state, Clinton beat Sanders 57% to 41% among women. Sanders held a somewhat smaller lead among men, according to the entrance survey, conducted by Edison Research for the Associated Press and the major TV networks.

To compound Clinton's margin, women made up well over half the turnout, the entrance poll found.

This race is so awful that you can't look away

 (Spencer Platt / Getty Images)
(Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

I'm not saying I'll ever leave California and move to Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina or Nevada. But for months now, I've wished I had a front-row seat to the parade of presidential wannabes in the most entertaining primary season ever.

A Jewish socialist candidate who is roughly the same age as Moses has locked up the youth vote.

An African American candidate's most lasting impression was a defense of his belief that the pyramids were actually grain elevators.

The only remaining female candidate is having trouble scoring points with women.

And a candidate with a head like a Santa Ana wildfire has mocked a female opponent's looks and insulted a former prisoner of war for getting captured.

Donald Trump on campaigning: 'It’s tough. It’s nasty. It’s mean. It’s vicious. It’s beautiful.'

 (Spencer Platt / Getty Images)
(Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

Donald Trump rode a week of insults directed at a popular pope and a GOP president to trounce his opponents in South Carolina’s Republican presidential primary Saturday, the most convincing evidence to date that his establishment-smashing campaign is on track to win him the nomination.

None of Trump’s rivals came close to knocking him off, despite — or perhaps because of — his position at the center of one of the most polarizing campaign weeks in recent history.

“There’s nothing easy about running for president,” Trump told a cheering crowd in Spartanburg, S.C. “It’s tough. It’s nasty. It’s mean. It’s vicious. It’s beautiful. When you win, it’s beautiful, and we are going to start winning for our country.”

He added, “Let’s put this thing away.”

Hillary Clinton is back on track toward Democratic nomination

 (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Hillary Clinton's victory Saturday in the Nevada caucuses puts her back in command to win the Democratic presidential nomination.

But it was close enough that Bernie Sanders has every incentive to stay in the race for some time, denying Clinton and the party establishment the swift resolution they hoped would let them turn their full attention to the general election in November.

By the numbers

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