Trump wins Nevada’s GOP caucuses
Donald Trump won the Nevada caucuses on Thursday night, positioning him to sweep most, if not all, of the state’s 26 delegates after facing virtually no opposition in a state where he has retained a solid grip on the loyalty of the GOP base and forged strong alliances with the party leaders who shaped rules that favored him in the contest.
None of the other major candidates chose to participate in Thursday night’s caucuses, where candidates had to pay $55,000 to the Republican Party to compete, and Trump’s strong alliances with Nevada Republican Party leaders helped seal his victory. Trump’s only remaining rival, former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, opted not to participate in the caucuses because she argued that party officials had rigged the state’s entire primary and caucus process to help Trump.
Claiming victory in a brief speech in Las Vegas late Thursday, Trump argued that the country is “doing horribly” and is “a laughingstock all over the world.”
“We’re not respected even a little bit, and you understand why,” Trump said. Claiming that the United States “does not have leadership,” he criticized President Biden, whom he is likely to face in a rematch this fall. “I just want to really thank the great people of Nevada, because this was a turnout. … The all-time caucus record was broken.”
He did not dwell on the ongoing primary fight for the Republican nomination but instead looked ahead to the general election in November and the role that the Silver State will play as one of the most competitive battlegrounds.
“If we win this state, we easily win the election in November,” he said. “We have to win the election. Go back home, rest and then come back, because we’re going to turn this whole thing around,” Trump continued. “If we win the state of Nevada, it’s over for them. And our country’s going to be better, greater, bigger, more beautiful than ever before.”
In a statement addressing the Nevada caucus results, Democratic National Committee Rapid Response Director Alex Floyd argued against that prediction, noting that no one knows “how to lose Nevada like Trump.”
“His back-to-back losses in 2016 and 2020 made him the first Republican in decades to lose the state twice,” Floyd said, referring to the general election in those two presidential cycles. “He and his MAGA minions may be able to rig a caucus for him now, but Trump won’t be able to escape becoming a three-time loser in Nevada this November when voters once again reject his MAGA extremism.”
Nevada was the third early-state contest where delegates are on the line, coming after Iowa and New Hampshire, where the former president won decisively and claimed a commanding advantage in the race for the Republican nomination.
The Nevada Republican Party held its caucuses two days after the state-run primary, in which Trump’s name did not appear on the Republican ballot that was mailed to every registered voter. Haley — the only major contender still competing against Trump for the nomination — faced an embarrassing setback in Tuesday’s primary when far more voters selected “none of these candidates” instead of her.
Under the state GOP rules, candidates were not permitted to compete in both contests, and the primary was virtually meaningless because the party’s delegates were being allocated to whichever candidate won Thursday’s caucuses. Trump was the only major presidential candidate competing in the caucuses.
After Haley and several other GOP candidates placed their names on the primary ballot — and chose to forgo the caucuses — many of Trump’s supporters chose the “none of these candidates” option on the primary ballot as a show of support for the former president.
Haley’s campaign manager emphasized both before and after the caucuses that the former South Carolina governor had not spent any money or effort in Nevada after concluding that the delegate rules were set by the state’s party leaders in a fashion that would be most favorable to Trump.
During a January rally in Nevada, Trump told his backers to ignore the primary altogether. “Don’t waste your time on primary, waste all of your time on caucus,” he said, adding “the primary doesn’t mean anything.”
After her loss in the Nevada primary, Haley responded in an interview on Wednesday that she had not campaigned in the state because “Trump rigged it” and called the state’s system “a scam.” She also noted that one Trump ally in particular, Nevada GOP chairman Michael McDonald, was indicted in a probe related to Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election. Late last year, a Nevada grand jury charged six Republicans — including McDonald — who claimed to be presidential electors in 2020 and submitted certificates to Congress falsely asserting that Trump had won the election in their state.
In 2016, Trump won the GOP caucuses in the Silver State on the strength of his anti-establishment appeal and his promises to “drain the swamp” in Washington, outmaneuvering competitors who were better organized, including Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Ted Cruz (Tex.). President Biden narrowly won the 2020 general election race in Nevada, but the state will once again be highly competitive in November.
Nevada voters had selected its presidential nominees for decades by attending the caucuses held by their respective parties. But after the 2020 elections, Democratic lawmakers pushed to hold a statewide primary and forgo the caucuses, which often drew low turnout and were largely controlled by party activists. Over the objections of Republicans, Democratic state lawmakers passed a 2021 law guaranteeing that every state voter would receive a primary ballot in the mail, as well as options to vote in person or at a drop box.
The state’s Republican leaders sued the state — arguing that Democratic lawmakers could not determine their process for choosing delegates — and won the right to award delegates through their caucus process. The conflict resulted in the confusing situation this week in which GOP voters were able to cast a ballot in Tuesday’s state-run primary but will decide which candidate should get the 26 delegates in the separate Republican Party-run caucuses on Thursday night.