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Donald Trump Projected Winner In Nevada Caucuses

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reacts as he walks up to the stage during a rally Tuesday in Reno, Nev.

Donald Trump is the projected winner of the Nevada Republican caucuses, according to the Associated Press, giving the billionaire his major third victory in two weeks.

The real estate mogul, whose name adorns a glistening gold hotel along the Las Vegas Strip, was the heavy favorite heading into the Silver State vote. His win follows triumphs in New Hampshire and South Carolina. No candidate who has won both those states has not gone on to be the GOP nominee.

Early returns from the Tuesday evening caucuses show Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio are battling for second-place showing.

Entrance polls showed the Nevada electorate was angry and hungry for an outsider. Fifty-eight percent of caucus-goers said they were angry with the federal government, much higher than in Iowa (42 percent), South Carolina (40 percent) or New Hampshire (39 percent.)

Sixty-one percent said they wanted someone in the White House from outside the political establishment, while just 33 percent backed someone with government experience. In the three previous states, voters were more evenly split.

Many reporters at the caucuses were sending reports of confusion and chaos at caucus sites, including IDs not being checked, multiple ballots being given out and some site workers wearing shirts supporting Trump. The Nevada Republican Party tweeted that there were "no official reports of voting irregularities or violations" and that volunteers were permitted to wear candidate gear.

At stake are 30 delegates, who are awarded both proportionally based on the at-large statewide vote and by who wins the state's four congressional districts.

A quarter of the GOP electorate four years ago was Mormon — something that early on was thought might benefit Rubio, whose family lived in the state as a child and had briefly joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

But now, that once-perceived advantage for the Florida senator could be moving toward Trump as well.

"What we've seen over the last few weeks is that there have been a lot of Mormon voters that have now come to Mr. Trump," Nevada GOP Chairman Michael McDonald told NPR's Audie Cornish. "I can't explain it. It's clearly above my pay grade."

Cruz, meanwhile, has been hoping to pick up support from some of the state's libertarian-leaning Republicans who supported former Rep. Ron Paul in 2012 and 2008. His son, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, withdrew from the presidential race after a disappointing Iowa finish.

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