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Indy Elections: What to expect when you’re expecting to caucus

Plus: Primary results — podcast edition.
Jacob Solis
Jacob Solis
Sean Golonka
Sean Golonka
Indy Elections

Indy Elections is The Nevada Independent’s newsletter devoted to comprehensive and accessible coverage of the 2024 elections, from the race for the White House to the bid to take control of the Legislature.

In today’s edition: Hope you processed Tuesday’s elections, because it’s time for another election. This time, Republicans meet to hold their presidential caucus, in which former President Donald Trump is all but the assured winner. So what are we keeping an eye on? Plus, we break down what Tuesday’s results mean on a new episode of On the Trail.

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We want to hear from you! Send us your questions, comments, observations, jokes or what you think we should be covering or paying attention to. Email Jacob Solis, your humble newsletter editor, at [email protected].

Days until: 

  • Candidate filing opens: 25
  • Regular primary Election Day: 124
  • Election Day: 271

Nevada Republicans hold their presidential caucus tonight. Here’s what to watch. 

By Jacob Solis and Sean Golonka

Two days after Nikki Haley’s campaign was outvoted 2-1 in Nevada’s non-binding presidential primary in favor of no one, Nevada Republicans will gather tonight to declare former President Donald Trump a unanimous winner in the state’s party-run caucus. 

It’s a race in which only Trump and Texas banking CEO and pastor Ryan Binkley are running, and one in which Trump is guaranteed to secure 26 more delegates — more delegates than he won in either Iowa or New Hampshire — and a night’s worth of headlines on his way to the next contest in South Carolina. 

It comes after months of confusion for rank and file Nevada Republicans, who were confronted not only by two elections (with one mattering and the other not), but with a primary ballot that excluded Trump altogether (again, a decision by the state party to prevent candidates from filing for both). Haley, for her part, told Fox 11 in Los Angeles that Nevada’s GOP elections were “rigged from the start.” 

Trump and his campaign have spent the time in between already poised in victory formation. In a post on his Truth Social platform Tuesday, Trump said, “Watch, she’ll soon claim Victory!” after the first results showed Haley behind “None of These Candidates” by nearly 30 points. 

On Wednesday, a Trump campaign spokesperson, Steven Cheung, said in a statement that Haley’s Nevada defeat was “humiliating, embarrassing and utterly overwhelming.” 

Now — what will a win in Nevada be worth to Trump? Here’s what we’re watching before Republicans arrive for the caucus at 5 p.m.: 

Who will actually show up for a preordained caucus? 

This number is important because if turnout is low enough, Haley could end up with more votes from Nevada than Trump. In returns released through Wednesday afternoon, Haley has recorded more than 21,000 votes (only about 23,000 fewer than the top vote-getter, “none of these candidates”). 

It’s not a high bar to clear. Even in the messy 2012 GOP caucus, 33,000 voters participated. Matching that turnout would see Trump easily clear Haley’s number and avoid a potentially embarrassing result for his own campaign.

Still, the structure and timing of the state party’s caucus may limit turnout. The caucus functions similarly to a primary, in which voters are able to mark their favored candidate on a secret ballot, but is only open in-person from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., disallows absentee voting in most cases and requires participants to have been a Republican since early last month. 

Nevada’s delegates will be allocated based on each candidate’s share of the statewide caucus vote, but need to clear 3.9 percent to qualify for delegates (a measuring point we’ll call the “Binkley Bar”).

Axios recently reported that the Trump camp was worried about a hollow victory in Nevada if he underperformed relative to Haley, though the impact of such a result has been lessened by Haley’s poor performance against “none of these candidates.”

In the interim, narrative remains king. Sixteen days bridge Nevada’s caucus and the South Carolina Republican primary — described by the Trump campaign, according to the New York Times, as Haley’s “Waterloo” (in the Napoleonic sense of the word, and not the famed ABBA song). The former president has been openly eager to dispatch his lone opponent before Super Tuesday, railing against Haley for staying in after her loss in New Hampshire and eyeing a more direct confrontation with Biden

Trump himself is expected to be in Las Vegas on Thursday for a victory event at the Treasure Island casino, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

What will we know and when will we know it? 

Good questions. The state party has released little information for people who aren’t Republicans planning to caucus, meaning exactly where and how results and turnout figures will be released remains up in the air as of Wednesday.

More broadly, we’ll be watching for any general issues with running the caucus. Though the 2020 caucus was canceled, the Republican caucuses in 2012 and 2016 were marred by administrative issues, from counting delays to confusion about precincts.

But unlike a state-run election, where reporters and regular people alike can legally observe voting under certain conditions, outside access is restricted by party rules. State party leaders have so far left access decisions up to county party chairs, creating a patchwork of who can be let in and where. 

In Washoe County, for instance, ProPublica reported this week that party chair Bruce Parks planned to refuse media access at every caucus site before changing to allow a limited number of reporters at a single site. 

When asked, Parks told ProPublica’s Anjeanette Damon: “There seems to be a shortage of honest reporters. We’re not going to open the doors and allow a particular narrative to be put out there that is not truthful.”

What we’re reading and writing

In Nevada primary without Trump, Haley loses to ‘none of these candidates’ by Eric Neugeboren, Sean Golonka and Jacob Solis

Cue the “womp womp” trombone.

Biden wins Nevada’s Democratic presidential primary in landslide vote by Jacob Solis, Sean Golonka, Eric Neugeboren and Naoka Foreman

It’s not a South Carolina margin for Biden, but it’s not far off. 

Nevada primary turnout: Driven by mail, primary vote totals near caucus records by Sean Golonka

Nothing to show how low caucus turnout is quite like holding a primary, instead.

Election Day live updates: Republican voters irked Trump is not on primary ballot by Nevada Independent staff

In which we discover people still didn’t know why Trump wasn’t on the ballot. 

NV Supreme Court weighs lawmakers’ ability to work in other public sector jobs by Sean Golonka

Will we finally get an answer to the oft-asked “separation of powers” question? 

Las Vegas mayor says A’s move to Nevada ‘does not make sense’ by Tabitha Mueller and Howard Stutz

I can’t prove it, but somehow the A’s relocation is going to end up being a campaign issue. 

On the Trail: “Nobody beats Nikki”

This week — reporters Sean Golonka and Tabitha Mueller drop by a special Wednesday episode of the show to discuss all things Nevada primaries. That includes whether or not Nikki Haley can survive a Silver State embarrassment, what a Biden mega-landslide means for November, and whether or not the children voting on ice cream flavors are wrong, actually. 

And a programming note — we will have an extra episode of On the Trail this week! On Friday, CEO/Editor Jon Ralston and the whole elections team will be taking your questions live on YouTube at 11:30 a.m. Pacific Standard Time. If you can’t make it, we’ll be re-posting the livestream in the On the Trail feed Friday afternoon. 

As always, you can catch us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube or wherever you get your podcasts.

The Lightning Round

❓ Did “none of these candidates” really win? — If this option receives the most votes in a typical election featuring the protest choice (it is only on the ballot for races for statewide office and president), state law requires only votes cast for the named candidates to be counted. For example, “none of these candidates” cannot become governor, even if it were to receive the most votes in such a race, so the next highest vote-getter wins. 

But that state law also says that votes are only counted for named candidates in “determining nomination or election to any statewide office or presidential nominations or the selection of presidential electors.” With a non-binding result, the GOP primary did not really count toward any “presidential nomination,” so are the votes for “none of these candidates” actually counted? 

Alas, we rely on Occam's razor and say “none of these candidates” got more votes than Nikki Haley, and therefore, won the contest.

🎰 Nikki “Nevada, it’s such a scam” Haley — We mentioned it up top, but Haley went off on Nevada’s process in that interview with Los Angeles’ Fox affiliate just after being walloped by, well, nobody. Of note, she not only called Nevada’s primary/caucus “a scam” and “rigged from the start,” but also that “we knew months ago that we weren’t going to spend a day or a dollar in Nevada because it wasn’t worth it.” (Fact check: this is true, Haley didn’t even try to campaign while she was in Las Vegas that one, single time back in October).

🗳️ Bilbray-Axelrod joins the county commission fray — After merely considering a county commission run a few weeks ago, Assemblywoman Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod (D-Las Vegas) soft-launched a new website Tuesday before making her bid official Wednesday. The race for Clark County Commissioner Ross Miller’s soon-to-be-open District C would pit the assemblywoman against Republican April Becker, who lost a congressional bid against Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) in 2022. For more, check our local government candidate tracker here

Sean Golonka and Jacob Solis

And to ease you into the week, a few “posts” to “X” that caught our eye: 

  • Please address all your boba-based hot takes to Sean
  • The pricaucen is a delicacy only found in Nevada.
  • Top of the sickos watchlist: Nevada’s primary.
  • The bits, they write themselves. 
  • Bubble gum-flavored ice cream advances. The kids in Henderson are not alright.

We’ll see you next week. 

Interested in more newsletters from The Nevada IndependentFind them all here.


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