A day after running the tables in the Nevada caucuses, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said he'd likely look for someone with political experience as a running mate if he wins the nomination -- maybe even someone he has run against.
"I would want somebody that could help me with government, so most likely that would be a political person," the billionaire said Wednesday during an appearance in Virginia, a state voting on next week's so-called Super Tuesday. "You want somebody that can help you with legislation, getting it through."
Trump didn't mention any names from the 2016 Republican field, but did say that "some of the people I've dealt with I do have a lot of respect for and I like."
Trump's 22-point win on Tuesday in Nevada placed more distance between himself and his nearest competitors, Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas, and gave his unorthodox candidacy a major boost heading into next week.
Ahead of the Pack
The political newcomer now has won in the Northeast, the South, and the West by riding a wave of anger at the Washington establishment among voters who feel left out of the political process.
The almost 46 percent of the vote that he won Tuesday was the highest level of support he's received yet and could quiet skeptics who have argued he has a ceiling in the 30s. He also helped spur significantly higher turnout in Nevada than what was recorded in 2008 and 2012.
Trump’s backing has come from a broad swath of demographic groups that leaves him well-positioned to capture the nomination in the contests ahead -- the rich and poor, college educated and less educated, and, in Nevada, Latino voters. In his victory speech Tuesday night, he said he’s in position to put the race away.
"It’s going to be an amazing two months," Trump said, referring to the nomination calendar. "We might not even need the two months, folks, to be honest."
Is it time to embrace Trump, a CNN host asked Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Wednesday? "I think it's pretty clear we're going to embrace whoever the nominee is," Priebus said.
"The main quality that you want is somebody who can be a great president," a subdued Trump said on Wednesday of a potential running mate at the Virginia Beach event, where he took questions from televangelist Pat Robertson. "I'm not thinking about it a lot. I'm thinking about getting the ball over the line and, you know, get this thing done."
The Nevada results dealt a blow to Rubio and Cruz, who finished far behind Trump in second and third, respectively. Rubio was counting on picking up the supporters of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who dropped out of the race on Saturday, to position himself as Trump’s top challenger. But there was little evidence of Republicans coalescing behind Rubio, as Trump beat him nearly two-to-one.
"This is what every presidential campaign dreams about: big wins in early states and all the momentum on your side as you swing into Super Tuesday," said Kevin Madden, a senior adviser to Mitt Romney’s 2012 Republican presidential campaign. "There’s still an opportunity for Rubio to bring together elements of the electorate that are anti-Trump or open to an alternative, but every day from here on out is another day where that opening gets smaller."
Trump's win also comes just ahead of Republicans gathering in Houston for their 10th debate -- the first since Bush suspended his campaign after a poor showing in South Carolina.
Rubio said in an interview with CBS on Wednesday that the race isn’t over yet and the state contests scheduled between now and the middle of March are key. “The Republican nomination is decided by delegates,” he said. “It’s not based on how many states you win.”
Cruz, the only candidate to best Trump so far, entered the race as the standard-bearer of conservative Republicans and evangelical Christians, but those groups have not rallied to his campaign since his win in Iowa. In addition, Cruz has spent recent days battling charges from both Trump and Rubio that he’s running a dirty campaign. His third-place finish in Nevada after a third-place finish in South Carolina is sure to raise questions about the viability of his campaign.
With all of Nevada precincts reporting, Trump had 45.9 percent of the vote. Rubio narrowly held on to second place with 23.9 percent followed by Cruz with 21.4 percent. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Ohio Governor John Kasich, who campaigned less aggressively in the state, were at 4.8 percent and 3.6 percent.
Nevada awards delegates proportionally, based on the caucus vote, and Trump won 14 of the 30 in play, according to Associated Press estimates. It takes 1,237 delegates to win the nomination.
The win makes Trump the victor in three of the four states that have voted on the Republican side. The big prize will be delivered on March 1, the first multi-state day in the race and one that demands more money and campaign infrastructure. It’s like a mini-national campaign, where coffee-shop campaigning gives way to the kind of state and national media coverage where Trump has thrived.
While just 9 percent of those voting were Hispanic, entrance polling posted by CNN showed that Trump won 44 percent of that group, despite running against two Hispanic competitors. They found less traction, according to the polling, with Rubio supported by 29 percent and Cruz by 18 percent.
“We won the evangelicals. We won with young. We won with old. We won with highly educated. We won with poorly educated -- I love the poorly educated,” Trump said in his victory speech. “This is an amazing night.”
In a state where 21 percent of the population is of Mexican ancestry -- and where Trump owns property and has employees -- he sought to tap into resentment among white Republicans by repeatedly promising to build a wall along the Mexican border.
In a rare TV interview on Wednesday, Trump's wife, Melania, said her husband "didn't talk about everybody" when he railed against Mexico, "he talked about illegal immigrants." Originally from Slovenia, Melania Trump said, "I went by the system, I went by the law, and you should do that."
While turnout was heavy, Nevada Republican Party officials downplayed accounts of disarray at caucus locations. There were reports that some volunteers were wearing candidate-themed clothing, but the party said that wasn’t prohibited.
-- With assistance from Ben Brody and Toluse Olorunnipa