The primary, which awards no delegates, had seemed like a foregone conclusion, as former President Trump chose not to take part. On Thursday, he will instead participate in party-run caucuses where all of the state’s 26 delegates will be awarded, a choice by Nevada Republicans that rendered the primary basically irrelevant.
As the top vote-getter after “None of These Candidates”, Haley was still expected to be declared the victor, according to the secretary of state’s office, which pointed to a state election law that says “only votes cast for the named candidates shall be counted”. But Haley skipped campaigning in Nevada entirely, choosing instead to spend her time in South Carolina, her home state, after Trump easily won the first two nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Supporters of Trump in Nevada, including Governor Joe Lombardo, had advocated selecting “None of These Candidates” on the primary ballot as a protest vote against Haley. Republicans can then vote for Trump in the caucuses two days later, where he is essentially running unopposed after Haley, his last major rival standing, chose not to compete.
Trump jabbed at Haley’s ugly result in Nevada, writing on his social media website, Truth Social, that it was a “bad night” for her. “Watch, she’ll soon claim Victory!” he wrote.
The fact that a “none of the above” option could overpower any enthusiasm from the supporters of Haley is another blow to her slim chances of winning the nomination over Trump. Critics of the dual primary-caucus system in Nevada, including those in Haley’s camp, have suggested that the state Republican Party set it up to benefit Trump, which the party has denied. Michael McDonald, the state party chair, was one of the people indicted in the fake elector scheme to overturn President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.
Haley’s team brushed off the result. “Even Trump knows that when you play penny slots, the house wins. We didn’t bother to play a game rigged for Trump,” a spokesman said. “We’re full steam ahead in South Carolina and beyond.”