ANALYSIS: Donald Trump Bringing Order to Republican Chaos

The “chaos candidate” is thriving on chaos.

February 24, 2016, 12:20 AM

— -- The “chaos candidate” is thriving on chaos. Now, he’s actually building something out of it, too.

Even with Jeb Bush gone -– his description of Donald Trump living on -- and the establishment falling in line behind Marco Rubio, Trump rolled to victory in the Nevada caucuses.

He benefited, again, from divided opposition. Yet this win looks like more than that: With a third straight victory, Trump is showing signs of growing his own base of support, smashing supposed ceilings the way aging casinos get knocked down on the Strip.

Trump again ran strong among evangelical voters, delivering another blow to a lagging Ted Cruz. He ran strong across issue areas and education levels, consolidating Republican support in ways his opponents have claimed only they would be able to do.

Even in this victory, there are signs of a possible late-developing race where Rubio would be the strongest alternative to Trump.

Rubio ran strongest among caucus-goers who made up their minds in the last week, around the time GOP senators and governors rushed to support him after Bush exited the race Saturday night.

To that end, Rubio was the dominant choice among those who said they valued government experience over being an outsider, and those for whom winning the general election is the top priority.

Trump, though, romped where Trump has to -– among those who want a candidate who “tells it like it is,” and those who are angry at the federal government. More voters wanted an outsider and said they were angry than said the same in Iowa, New Hampshire, or South Carolina.

With a cascade of states set to vote in the coming weeks, it can no longer be plausibly argued that Trump’s campaign will collapse under its own weight. Voters are responding to a message he has been delivering for more than half a year.

Rubio has taken to saying he realizes he’s not the first choice of many Republicans, and just hopes to be the final choice. A direct, one-on-one choice, though, may not be available to GOP voters –- not if Trump has a few more nights like he did Tuesday in Nevada.

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