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How a narrowing GOP presidential field will affect Nevada’s caucus, primaries

After Ron DeSantis suspended his campaign Sunday, Nevada state GOP Chair Michael McDonald said the February caucus would be moving forward "no matter what."
Jacob Solis
Jacob Solis
Election 2024

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis scuttled his presidential bid Sunday. He did it just six days after losing the Iowa caucus — a contest in which he outspent former President Donald Trump nearly two-to-one — by nearly 30 points. 

His exit — 18 days from the Nevada Republican caucus — now leaves just two names on that caucus ballot: Trump and long-shot Texas pastor Ryan Binkley. In what has long been viewed as a contest winnable only by Trump, the caucus is now little more than a delegate rubber stamp.

Binkley, by Iowa comparison, received just 0.7 percent of the vote. In a statement, Binkley told The Indy that his momentum was growing — he touted “receiving four times more votes than Asa Hutchinson” in Iowa — and still saw Nevada as a chance to win delegates for the national convention.

But by consequence, DeSantis’ campaign collapse could further crater expected turnout, beyond low levels already expected for a caucus process famed for being obtuse for rank-and-file voters. 

“Why bother?” Amy Tarkanian, a former state GOP party chair, told The Nevada Independent. “Who are you going to debate for?” 

Still, the caucus is set to continue with only Trump and Binkley. State party Chair Michael McDonald said in a phone interview that he still felt “pretty good” about expected turnout, even with a whittled-down field (though he did not provide precise estimates). More than that, he said the caucus would go forward “no matter what.”

“Even if everyone drops out, we’re already paid for, already moving forward,” McDonald said. 

Trump’s lone remaining major opponent, Nikki Haley, is running on the state’s primary ballot. It is a primary that will award no delegates and, held two full days before the caucus, will not pit the former U.N. ambassador against Trump. 

Haley’s strategy is intentional. Asked about the decision to snub the party-run Nevada caucus, she told reporters in New Hampshire that “we’re going to focus on the states that are fair.”

Add that to the list of long-running intra-party gripes about the party-run caucus. 

For weeks (months?) we have toyed with the once-unthinkable notion that Nevada no longer mattered to either presidential nominating contest. That has borne out in the data: an analysis from political ad tracking firm AdImpact, for instance, showed $1 million in total Nevada GOP spending compared to $75.6 million in New Hampshire. 

If a caucus falls in a forest, and no one is around to hear it — does it even make a sound?

What is left is a race between two candidates, both running as incumbents, now coming to Nevada in a dress rehearsal for November. Trump, to his base, as the president who never left. Biden, to disaffected moderates and disgruntled Democrats, as the one man who can beat Trump. 

By Saturday, the general election hypothetical will be on full display. Vice President Kamala Harris will open early voting festivities in East Las Vegas, just as Trump is set to rally at an East Las Vegas baseball park, both ostensibly rallies for a pair of primary elections with neither suspense nor stakes — so long as we’re not yet counting six electoral votes. 

Reporter Gabby Birenbaum contributed to this story from Washington, D.C.

Editor’s note: This story appears in Indy Elections, The Nevada Independent’s newsletter dedicated to comprehensive coverage of the 2024 elections. Sign up for the newsletter here.


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