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Indy Elections: Your guide to Nevada primary election day

Plus: In Vegas, Biden looks to bolster key voting blocs
Sean Golonka
Sean Golonka
Tabitha Mueller
Tabitha Mueller
Jacob Solis
Jacob Solis
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: It’s finally Presidential Preference Primary Election Day for all who celebrate (and by turnout reports so far, it’s not too many). So what’s there to watch in a primary without any suspense? Plenty, if you ask us! Plus, an inside look at how the president spends a day in Las Vegas. 

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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: 

  • GOP presidential caucus: 2
  • Candidate filing opens: 27
  • Regular primary Election Day: 126
  • Election Day: 273

It’s finally primary Election Day. Here’s what to watch. 

By Sean Golonka 

Will “none of these candidates” thwart a victory by President Joe Biden? Could the unique protest choice on the ballot topple Nikki Haley? Can Democratic turnout surpass the record of 118,000 set in the 2008 caucus?

As this newsletter hits your inbox, polls are opening across Nevada. As thousands of voters stream to their local polling stations and ballot drop boxes (find information about voting locations here), those are just a few of the pending questions about the Democratic and Republican primaries.

On the Democratic side, Biden is likely to cruise to victory, after winning Saturday’s South Carolina primary with 96 percent of the vote. Still,  the “none of these candidates” option — a ballot choice that exists only in Nevada — could provide Democratic voters a way to express their apathy for Biden as the nominee.

On the Republican side, Haley, a former South Carolina governor and former United Nations ambassador, is the only major candidate left in the primary. Former President Donald Trump is instead competing in the Nevada Republican Party-run caucus on Thursday — the only contest used to determine delegates.

While Trump is likely to sweep the state’s delegates in a caucus contest against Texas pastor and businessman Ryan Binkley, Haley could still make headlines with a victory in the first contest — the primary.

But she has made zero investment in the Silver State. In a statement released Monday, Haley’s campaign manager said the campaign has “not spent a dime nor an ounce of energy on Nevada,” criticizing the Nevada GOP as “a Trump entity” that has rigged the caucus for the former president.

With top GOP officials recommending Republican voters to select “none of these candidates” in the primary — something Gov. Joe Lombardo said he’d do as he planned to caucus for Trump — the protest choice could also disrupt a Haley victory.

Though the “none of these candidates” option has played spoiler on a few occasions in lower-profile elections — including receiving the highest share of votes in the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial primary (30 percent) and a 1976 congressional primary (47 percent) — the highest percentage it has received in a general election presidential race is 2.56 percent in 2016, when Democrat Hillary Clinton won the state by 2.42 points over Trump.

Heading into Tuesday, more than 151,000 voters have already cast their ballots in the primaries — about 94,000 Democrats and 58,000 Republicans. We’ll explore some turnout numbers below, but click here for a complete breakdown of turnout data.

Biden targets unions, AAPI voters on his way out of Vegas

By Jacob Solis

On Sunday, the president came to town. 

President Joe Biden’s Sunday visit to Las Vegas had all the trapping of a general election campaign staple, including a rally and a top-dollar fundraiser. But on Monday, in the middle of a city festooned with trappings for the looming Super Bowl LVIII, Biden aimed at something a little more low-key and closer to retail politics — and targeted, directly, two constituencies that could be key to his 2024 campaign: Organized labor and AAPI voters. 

At his first stop, inside the inner workings of Vdara, on the Las Vegas Strip, Biden shook hands with casino employees taking a lunch break. Flanked by Culinary Workers Union Local 226 Secretary-Treasurer Ted Pappageorge and Reps. Dina Titus (D-NV) and Susie Lee (D-NV), Biden repeatedly thanked union members while touting his administration’s economic accomplishments. 

“Wall Street did not build America, the middle class of America,” Biden told the workers. “And unions built the middle class.”

His appearance Monday came just hours after the union averted a strike deadline in a series of negotiations with properties downtown and on the Strip, but was nonetheless intended as another opportunity to bolster his organized labor bonafides after becoming the first president to walk a picket line during a strike last September. 

Biden’s final Las Vegas stop was in Chinatown, where he and a cadre of Democratic state lawmakers ordered boba tea from No. 1 Boba Tea. Milk tea in hand, Biden’s stop here was meant to implicitly highlight his administration’s support of Asian American and Pacific Islander populations — but stopped briefly for a handful of questions from the traveling press corps, including saying: “If I were Trump I’d want to debate me too, he’s got nothing else to do.” 

Additional questions focused more on national issues. Pressed on the bipartisan border deal in the Senate that was drawing increasing Republican opposition through Monday afternoon, Biden said he would tell House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) to “pay attention to the Senate,” and that he was disappointed the compromise bill excluded protections for DREAMers — even if he did ultimately support the bill. 

“And now, they’re talking about the border, ‘it’s out of control,’” Biden said. “Guess what? Everything in that bipartisan bill gives me control, gives us control, and still meets the needs of the people being able to legally come across … There’s a lot we can do.” 

What we’re reading and writing

Ahead of Nevada primary, Biden uses Las Vegas rally to draw contrasts with Trump by Jacob Solis and Sean Golonka

Biden visits Nevada, proving once and for all that the Silver State matters.

Amid Biden, Trump unpopularity, RFK Jr. woos independents at Vegas rally by Eric Neugeboren

RFK Jr. needs to receive and submit 10,095 signatures to land on Nevada's ballot. Can he do it?

‘I have something to give back:’ How Washoe County’s interim registrar went from ice cream to elections by Carly Sauvageau 

Something of a story of going from the frying pan into the fire to out of the fire to a new, Washoe-shaped frying pan. 

'We're used to starting early:' Why Biden's Nevada campaign is ramping up ahead of primary by Gabby Birenbaum 

Without a caucus to run, Team Biden is testing the waters.

A Democrat beating Biden may be impossible. Is Nevada Marianne Williamson’s last chance? by Jacob Solis

“In 2020, they were satisfied simply to make fun of me. This time, they came after me,” Williamson told The Indy.

As election year begins, Democrats wield financial advantage in congressional races by Gabby Birenbaum, Eric Neugeboren, Sean Golonka and Jacob Solis

It's all 'bout the money as the super PACs prepare to get involved.

Trump’s team worries about a hollow victory in Nevada, by Sophia Cai, Axios

Unintended consequences abound.

‘I’ll permanently fuck up your biorhythms’: The inside story of the DeSantis super PAC’s failure, by Marc A. Caputo, The Bulwark

A story guest starring former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, allegedly mocked by super PAC staff as their own “Al Haig.”  

On the Trail: “Rallying 'Round the Clock”

This week on On the Trail — reporters Sean Golonka, Eric Neugeboren and Naoka Foreman join the show to talk about what the voters actually think about Nevada’s “meaningless” primaries (so-called), and whether anyone is actually excited for a rematch between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. 

You can listen to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube or wherever you get your podcasts. New episodes every Thursday. 

And a programming note: Be sure to catch Indy D.C. reporter and On the Trail regular Gabby Birenbaum for her Reddit Ask-Me-Anything on r/NevadaPolitics on Wednesday, Feb. 7, at 11 a.m.! 

Indy Ad Watch

Joe Biden — Flee

If you watched the Grammys in a battleground state, you might have seen a 30-second advertisement from President Joe Biden’s campaign featuring a Texas OB-GYN who had to leave the state to receive care after she learned that her planned pregnancy put her life at risk.

The advertisement aired in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It targets younger and more diverse voters, who, polling shows, are not as enthusiastic about the president as they were in the past. The advertisement’s focus on abortion access is part of a broader Democratic campaign strategy to put abortion on the ballot in 2024.

— Tabitha Mueller

The Lightning Round

💸Follow the money —  Far-right conspiracy theorist and prominent GOP donor Robert Beadles’ company, Coral Bay, made a $50,000 in-kind donation to Beadles’ Franklin Project PAC for a “Car Purchase.” It’s unclear whether the donation is legal, given that PACs are conduits for money, not property. The secretary of state’s office did not respond to an email sent last week asking about rules and regulations for PACs.

🗒️Democrats’ voter edge slips — For the first time in years, the share of Nevada voters registered as Democrats (596,000 voters) is less than 2 percentage points higher than the share registered as Republicans (560,000). As voter registration numbers continue to climb — a new record 1.93 million in January — Republican registration numbers are growing more rapidly, reducing a longtime Democratic lead in the state. Both are outnumbered by nonpartisans, though, who became the largest voting bloc in Nevada last July and have continued to grow since.

🗳️ Down-ballot elections — Though the presidential primaries are pretty much decided, announcements in local government races indicate 2024’s down-ballot races are just getting started. For more, head on over to our local government candidate tracker. For legislative announcements, click here.

Tabitha Mueller and Sean Golonka

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

We’ll see you next week. 

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