Biden wins Nevada’s Democratic presidential primary in landslide vote
President Joe Biden is cruising to an easy victory in Nevada’s Democratic presidential preference primary, winning 90 percent of the vote in early returns released Tuesday evening.
That includes almost 91 percent of the vote in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas and in which nearly three-quarters of Nevadans live. In Washoe County, a swing county that includes Reno, Biden won nearly 89 percent.
Biden’s nearest challenger, author and self-described progressive Marianne Williamson, held a distant third with 2.5 percent. Another Biden challenger in other states, Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN), was not on Nevada’s primary ballot as he entered the presidential race after the state’s filing window had already closed.
Still, nearly 5.7 percent of primary voters voted for “none of these candidates.” The choice — a unique staple of Nevada elections — gave Democrats a functional protest vote in a primary that has seen unusually little attention from national campaigns as Biden and former President Donald Trump have geared themselves toward a 2020 rematch.
“But this promise – the very thing that makes America, America – has never been more at risk than it is right now,” Biden said. “Donald Trump is trying to divide us, not unite us; drag us back to the past, not lead us to the future.”
Another 11 candidates with little name recognition or resources combined to receive about 1.8 percent.
In a statement, Biden thanked key voting blocs in the Nevada Democratic Party, including unions, immigrants and the middle class — while warning of a second Trump presidency.
The win is the president’s second in just three days. Biden won South Carolina’s primary on Saturday with more than 96 percent of the vote, as well as a potentially unofficial contest in New Hampshire late last month as a write-in candidate with nearly 64 percent of the vote.
That contest may or may not count for full delegates following a dispute between New Hampshire and the Democratic National Committee over a reshuffling of the primary calendar in 2023 that sought to move South Carolina and Nevada into the first and second spots.
The president’s win Tuesday secures 36 delegates — a minor tally compared to the more than 1,900 delegates Biden needs to secure the party’s nomination. But Nevada’s first-in-the-West primary is his first win in a general election battleground state, and will put more distance between Biden and long-shot challengers ahead of the next Democratic contest in Michigan on Feb. 27.
The Biden campaign has made Nevada one of its top 2024 targets, with its six electoral votes expected to be critical to the eventual winner of the Electoral College. This includes making Nevada part of an early advertising blitz, staffing up local campaign posts and dispatching surrogates with some regularity.
The pre-primary campaign — even muted by other presidential year standards — ended with a visit from Biden himself Sunday and Monday, his first official campaign stop to the Silver State as the incumbent president.
He spent much of his stump speech targeting Trump, who did not appear on the Republican primary ballot and is expected to win every delegate in the party-run Republican caucus Thursday.
The primary-caucus split
This year’s presidential primary was Nevada’s first since 1996. It followed a bill passed with bipartisan support that Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak signed in 2021 that required both major political parties to hold primary elections, while also giving them the discretion to award delegates however they’d like.
The primaries remain closed, however, allowing only voters registered with one of the two major parties to participate and excluding more than 637,000 registered nonpartisans — the largest single bloc of voters in Nevada.
The state GOP — led by Chair Michael McDonald, who is one of the six Nevadans facing felony forgery charges over their efforts to subvert the 2020 election as so-called “fake electors” for Trump — decided to award the state’s delegates based on the results of a party-run caucus, which will take place on Thursday. The party also prohibited candidates from participating in both the primary and the caucus, and charged candidates $55,000 to get on the caucus ballot.
Critics of the rules have argued that the system was designed to favor Trump, amid lower turnout, limits on the participation of super PACs and the caucus candidate fee. All Nevada voters registered with a major party received ballots in the mail for Tuesday’s primary, but the caucus will be held in person on Thursday, except for absentee ballots available for “active duty military members and their dependents,” according to the party.
McDonald, meanwhile, has said that the party favored the caucus because of state Democrats’ opposition to election policies supported by Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo, including requiring ID to vote, a rule in place for the caucus. And despite previously saying he would be neutral in the primary, McDonald has since urged Republican voters to caucus for Trump.
The dueling elections have also caused frustration and confusion among Republicans, including voters — many of whom on Tuesday remained confused as to why Trump was not on the primary ballot — and leading state officials. Lombardo last year blasted the election rules, specifically the one forbidding participation in both contests.
“I think that’s unacceptable for the voters and the understanding of how things should be done,” Lombardo said during an interview on a “Nevada Newsmakers.” episode in October. Lombardo told The Nevada Independent last month that he would still caucus for Trump and select “none of these candidates” on the primary ballot.
At Vegas party, Democrats cheer Biden’s win
A diverse and enthusiastic crowd of mainly senior citizens and campaign workers took over Classic Jewel Lounge in downtown Las Vegas to celebrate Biden’s primary win.
The victory party, hosted by state Democratic Party chair and Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno (D-North Las Vegas), featured a speech by co-host Attorney General Aaron Ford.
“The Biden-Harris ticket is a way that we continue to focus on the American family – all of us, not some of us,” Ford said. “Not the top 1 percent. Not someone who looks a certain way and is of a certain gender. All of us.”
As Monroe-Moreno took the stage, attendees chanted “D-M-M, D-M-M.”
“We went into this primary knowing that it wasn't really going to be a competitive race, right?” she said. “But that didn't stop us.”
She said organizers still have work to do on the ground to engage voters to ensure a victory in November.
Las Vegas retiree and former Clark County Democratic Party Chair Donna West, 67, told The Nevada Independent at the victory party that she is supporting another Biden-Harris administration mainly because they supported efforts to lower insulin costs to $35 a month.
“Which is really nice when you're on a fixed income,” West said.
Jerry Turner, 61, said he has always sat on the sidelines during elections while being a voter, but this year he plans to help mobilize Nevadans to get them to the polls. Turner said he is supporting the Biden-Harris campaign because he likes how their administration handled the COVID-19 pandemic, helping the country rebound economically and shepherding the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act.
“In spite of everything … the economy's good,” he said.
Jonathan Jones, 78, said when Biden became president in 2020, he felt like he could finally exhale.
“I remember back four years ago — every day it was a new crisis,” Jones said about Trump’s term. “Every day, some bombastic thing occurred and some huge amount of hyperbole came out of the White House and the Trump administration.”
Update: Feb. 6, 2024 at 9:15 p.m. — This story was updated to include the latest vote counts from Clark County, as well as a statement from President Joe Biden. Updated again at 9:37 p.m. to include details from the Biden campaign's victory event.