LAS VEGAS – Former President Donald Trump wasn’t on the ballot in Tuesday’s Republican presidential primary in the early voting state of Nevada.
But his absence wasn’t enough to help secure a victory for his last remaining major rival for the 2024 GOP nomination – Nikki Haley.
Voters casting ballots in the state-run Republican nominating contest couldn’t write in Trump’s name, but they could vote for a “none of these candidates” option.
And the Associated Press projected that the “none of these candidates” option would defeat Haley in a primary where no delegates to this summer’s Republican convention were at stake. Trump supporters Fox News spoke with at polling stations said they were casting a ballot for “none of these candidates.”
While her name was on the ballot, the former two-term South Carolina governor who later served as U.N. ambassador in the Trump administration ignored the Nevada primary.
Haley didn’t campaign in Nevada ahead of the primary and hasn’t been in the state since speaking in late October at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual leadership conference.
“In terms of Nevada, we have not spent a dime nor an ounce of energy on Nevada,” Haley campaign manager Betsy Ankney told reporters on Monday. “So Nevada is not and has never been our focus.”
As the vote count continued, the former president took to his Truth Social network to take aim at Haley.
“A bad night for Nikki Haley. Losing by almost 30 points in Nevada to “None of These Candidates.” Watch, she’ll soon claim Victory!” he argued.
And Trump campaign senior adviser Chris LaCivita pointed towards Haley’s home state, which holds the next major contest in the GOP nominating calendar on Feb. 24.
“More embarrassment coming in South Carolina …the @NikkiHaley Delusional Tour continues,’ LaCivita claimed in a social media post.
While Trump, the commanding front-runner for the 2024 GOP nomination as he makes his third straight White House run, wasn’t on the primary ballot, his name will be listed on Thursday in a presidential caucus being run by the Nevada GOP.
The confusion over having two competing contests dates to 2021, when Democrats, who at the time controlled both Nevada’s governor’s office and the legislature, passed a law changing the presidential nominating contest from long-held caucuses to a state-run primary.
The Nevada GOP objected, but last year their legal bid to stop the primary from going forward was rejected. In a twist, the judge in the case allowed the state Republicans to hold their own caucuses, where all 26 delegates will be up for grabs.
The state GOP ruled that candidates who put their name on the state-run primary ballot could not take part in the caucuses.
Haley and some of the other now-departed Republican presidential candidates viewed the Nevada GOP as too loyal to Trump and decided to skip a caucus they believed was tipped in favor of the former president.
Nevada GOP chair Michael McDonald and both of the state’s members of the Republican National Committee are supporting Trump.
“We made the decision early on that we were not going to pay $55,000 to a Trump entity that, you know, to participate in a process that was rigged for Trump,” Ankney argued.
While the GOP presidential candidates had to choose either the caucus or primary ballot, registered Republicans in Nevada can vote in both contests.
And Trump’s campaign has been working to get the message out to supporters in Nevada that if they want to vote for the former president, they need to show up at the caucuses.
“Your primary vote doesn’t mean anything. It’s your caucus vote,” Trump said at a rally in Las Vegas late last month. “So in your state, you have both the primary and you have a caucus. Don’t worry about the primary, just do the caucus thing.”
Trump is expected back in Las Vegas on Thursday, for a caucus celebration.
This week’s contests are just an appetizer for Nevada, which as a key general election battleground state will see plenty of campaign traffic this summer and autumn.
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