Update, February 7: On Tuesday, Nikki Haley lost to “none of the above,” a stinging embarrassment for the former South Carolina governor as she continues her increasingly longshot bid to defeat Donald Trump.
Today is Nevada’s presidential primary. But for Republicans, the vote will be largely meaningless.
Even though the state legislature passed a law replacing party caucuses with a statewide primary election in 2021, the GOP balked and opted to retain its caucus. That event, which will actually apportion delegates to the Republicans’ national convention, will take place Thursday night. Former President Donald Trump is the only real candidate participating in the caucuses, while Nikki Haley is the only remaining contender on today’s primary ballot.
The dueling elections have left many Nevada Republicans confused. The state party has been trying to educate voters about the process; Trump himself headlined a “Commit to Caucus” rally in Las Vegas last month. But those efforts haven’t kept many Republicans from taking part in the non-binding primary anyway. As of Monday morning, about 58,000 registered Republicans had cast ballots in the early voting period the week before the election.
Are they simply confused? Or is something else going on here?
Sigal Chattah, a Trump-backing Nevada RNC committeewoman, is opposed to the primary, but she told me last week that she’d been out collecting ballots for it anyway, basically for one reason: to crush Haley. “We’re telling people to vote ‘none of the above,’” she explained.
— Sigal Chattah (@Chattah4Nevada) February 2, 2024
Under Nevada law, voters are presented with the option of voting on a line formally labeled “none of these candidates.” Candidates who come in second to none of the above—as has happened roughly a half dozen times—still technically win, albeit in a highly humiliating fashion.
Last month, both Joe Lombardo, the state’s Republican governor, and Lt. Governor Stavros Anthony declared their intention to cast just such a symbolic primary vote. “I will be caucusing for President Trump on February 8, and voting ‘none of these candidates’ on the state-run show primary,” Anthony said in a statement. “I encourage all voters to do the same and take the next step towards returning our great country to stability and prosperity.”
— Stavros Anthony (@StavrosAnthony) January 18, 2024
Haley has said that she refused to participate in the Nevada caucus because she believes it isn’t fair; she also hasn’t actively campaigned around today’s primary. “In terms of Nevada, we have not spent a dime nor an ounce of energy,” Haley’s campaign manager Betsy Ankeny told reporters on Monday, explaining that the campaign had decided early on that it would not “participate in a process that was rigged for Trump.”
Chattah has her own theory as to why Haley failed to get on the caucus ballot. “Frankly, the reality is that she didn’t think she was going to get this far,” she told me.
Even with Trump dominating the 2024 GOP nominating contest, you’d think that a primary where Haley is the only contender would still present an easy opportunity for a first place finish. But thanks to Nevada law, the state’s MAGA leaders, and the ex-president’s grip on the party, even that is no sure bet.