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MEMO: Trump Wave Threatens Republican Establishment Candidates

To: Interested Parties
From: Zach Zaragoza, Executive Director, Nevada State Democratic Party
Subject: Trump Wave Threatens Republican Establishment Candidates
Date: Thursday, March 24, 2016

Ahead of Nevada’s Republican caucus, absentee Senator and failed presidential candidate Marco Rubio picked up a slew of endorsements from high-profile Republican politicians. The list included Senator Dean Heller, Congressmen Cresent Hardy and Mark Amodei, Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson and Assembly Majority Leader Paul Anderson. Even Governor Brian Sandoval caucused for Rubio, and Sandoval’s political team ran Rubio’s Nevada operation. Rubio’s team spent more money in Nevada than any other candidate. So the GOP establishment went all in for Rubio to win here – and they lost. Badly!

Instead, the support for anti-establishment outsider presidential candidates swelled this year. The combined support for Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Ben Carson added up to 72 percent of the vote in Nevada.

Trump, the Republican Party’s divisive frontrunner and presumptive nominee, took 45.9 percent of the vote statewide, beating Rubio in his early-state firewall by a stunning 22 points. More Republicans caucused for Trump than even showed up for the GOP caucus in 2012. Entrance polls showed that anger was key to Trump’s success: 59 percent of Nevada Republicans described themselves as angry at the federal government, a much higher proportion compared to other early states.

That anti-establishment wave now threatens to steamroll establishment-backed Republican candidates in their primary races. Even for the establishment-friendly Republicans who do survive their primaries on June 14, the hunger for outsider candidates within the GOP’s base of voters is already forcing them to hide from the press, tack to the right, and commit to supporting Trump – a xenophobe who is totally unqualified to be Commander-in-Chief – if he is their party’s nominee.

Here’s a look at some of the key races where establishment Republicans are in various stages of panic about the Trump effect:


Tea Party darling and Donald Trump fan Sharron Angle unexpectedly joined the high-profile Senate race last week, hoping to seize on Trump’s momentum. Angle and Congressman Heck are two birds of the same feather when it comes to their extreme positions, but it’s not hard to see how an anti-establishment outsider like Angle saw an opening against a Congressman who’s spent half a decade in Washington and votes with his party 90 percent of the time.

Caucus Vote – Statewide
Candidate Percent
Donald Trump 45.9%
Marco Rubio 23.9%
Ted Cruz 21.4%
Ben Carson 4.8%
John Kasich 3.6%



GOP Senate boss Michael Roberson is facing plenty of heartburn right now in the CD3 primary, and lately he’s been in hiding – declining interviews and walking away from simple questions. At a Republican primary debate earlier this month, the rowdy audience turned against Roberson when he tried to defend his legislative record, and his outsider primary opponent Danny Tarkanian is openly speculating that Roberson is afraid to debate again. Political observers believe Roberson has reason to be concerned about his upcoming primary.

Caucus Vote – CD3
Candidate Percent
Donald Trump 49.8%
Marco Rubio 25.6%
Ted Cruz 17.5%
Ben Carson 3.0%
John Kasich 3.7%



These two seats are key pickup opportunities for Democrats in 2016, who need to flip just one seat to reclaim the majority. While Democrats are laying the groundwork for the general election, Republicans are battling each other.

Senate District 6 (Clark) – Republicans have a nasty and expensive primary here between Assemblywoman Victoria Seaman and Assemblyman Erv Nelson. Seaman opposed the tax hike for education funding last session while Nelson voted for it; Seaman is attacking Nelson for distributing “insanely false” campaign literature on taxes, and the Senate GOP’s “anointed successor” is having a really hard time explaining his position.

Caucus Vote – SD6
Candidate Percent
Donald Trump 47.9%
Marco Rubio 27.8%
Ted Cruz 16.7%
Ben Carson 3.1%
John Kasich 4.3%

Senate District 15 (Washoe)
– Former Assembly Minority Leader and Sandoval chief of staff Heidi Gansert is facing a primary challenge from self-funding Reno businessman Eugene Hoover. While Gansert has faced withering criticism for continuing to equivocate on whether she would have supported the tax hike for education funding last session, Hoover has already started going after his establishment-backed primary opponent for refusing to take a stand against the tax increase.

Caucus Vote – SD15
Candidate Percent
Donald Trump 43.0%
Marco Rubio 26.9%
Ted Cruz 19.4%
Ben Carson 5.2%
John Kasich 5.0%



The map already favors Democrats to take back the Assembly — and just this week, GOP Assembly Majority Leader Paul Anderson told KNPR he’s “focused heavily” on dealing with 15 different Republican vs. Republican primaries.

Assembly District 9 (Clark) – Incumbent Assemblyman David Gardner is understandably nervous about a primary challenge from Nevada Republican National Committeewoman Diana Orrock. Gardner voted for the tax hike last session, which Orrock – a vocal Trump supporter – has strongly criticized.

Caucus Vote – AD9
Candidate Percent
Donald Trump 52.5%
Marco Rubio 27.3%
Ted Cruz 13.9%
Ben Carson 1.6%
John Kasich 4.2%

Assembly District 21 (Clark)
– Incumbent Assemblyman Derek Armstrong was deeply involved in passing last year’s tax hike and has close ties to Republican political leaders. Blain Jones, the son of Trump endorser and fringe Assemblyman Brent Jones, is waging a primary challenge.

Caucus Vote – AD21
Candidate Percent
Donald Trump 51.3%
Marco Rubio 24.1%
Ted Cruz 17.0%
Ben Carson 4.1%
John Kasich 3.1%

Assembly District 35 (Clark)
– GOP leaders are so irritated with incumbent Assemblyman Brent Jones that they are pushing Tiffany Jones to try to defeat him in the Republican primary. Jones is a Trump endorser who has actively recruited anti-tax candidates to run against Republican incumbents in the Assembly.

Caucus Vote – AD35
Candidate Percent
Donald Trump 53.5%
Marco Rubio 20.8%
Ted Cruz 19.9%
Ben Carson 2.8%
John Kasich 2.9%