Donald Trump's big win in the Nevada caucuses, with 46 percent of the vote, was not unexpected. His vote total and the other candidates' results lead to a number of key takeaways:
1. Nevada needs to get rid of caucuses or lose the "first in the West" designation. Numerous reports of voting irregularities, confusion and improper conduct do not give either voters or candidates confidence in the process and, frankly, make the GOP look like a banana republic.
2. Super Tuesday becomes do-or-die for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who, despite significant ad spending, came in a poor third, with 21 percent of the vote. His campaign is in disarray, his supporters publicly deride his strategy, he lacks a clear path to the nomination unless he wins some "SEC primary" states and he risks being cast as the spoiler, the man who enabled Donald Trump.
3. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who clocked in with a pathetic 3.6 percent of the vote, continues his streak of single-digit results in every state but New Hampshire. His stock only goes down as he pursues a delusional quest for the nomination. (The same should, of course, be said about Ben Carson, who lacks double-digit results in any state.) If they do not go voluntarily, the Republican National Committee should work with the networks to exclude from future debates candidates who have not finished in the top three in any Super Tuesday state.
4. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is now firmly in the No. 2 spot, after second-place finishes in South Carolina and now in Nevada (24 percent). As he puts Cruz in the rearview mirror, he will need to turn his fire on Trump, making the case that the country and the party cannot withstand a Trump nomination, let alone presidency.
5. It was scary enough when Trump was winning with one-third of the votes. It is one thing if 46 percent is an outlier, a peculiar result in a cranky state with an unreliable caucus. It is quite another if this is the new "ceiling" for Trump. The answer is not predetermined; it will be up to the voters, candidates, donors and party functionaries to prevent Trump from adding to his base of voters.
6. A fraction of the delegates in the nominating process have been awarded, but once the race turns to winner-take-all states, the situation becomes acute for non-Trump Republicans. It is one reason for Kasich to exit before the Ohio race and Cruz to get out if his SEC strategy collapses next week.
7. Third-party groups and conservative leaders -- including evangelical leaders whose members are flocking to Trump -- need to be loud, clear and consistent in their opposition to Trump, making clear their members will sit out or go to a third party if Trump is the nominee. We have yet to see "values voters" leaders make the case why Trump is antithetical to their values.
8. No candidate should be saying he will support Trump if he is the nominee. Voters need to understand that Trump's nomination means dissolution of the GOP as it now stands.
9. Mitt Romney should get off the sidelines and, as one of the few elder statesmen, lend his voice to the anti-Trump cause. He should be willing to spend the time and his own money if need be to educate voters about the Trump menace.
10. Today's debate really is crucial, an opportunity to show that Trump is vulnerable to attack and unacceptable as a future commander in chief.