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Pence skips Nevada GOP caucus, becomes first major candidate to file for state-run primary

His decision reflects the ongoing split among Republicans over the Nevada GOP’s decision to hold a caucus just two days after the state-run primary.
Sean Golonka
Sean Golonka
Election 2024

Former Vice President Mike Pence filed Thursday to run in Nevada’s presidential primary, opting not to participate in the Nevada Republican Party’s caucus — and with it, skipping out on an opportunity to win any Nevada delegates at the Republican National Convention.

Pence’s decision comes as several other high-profile candidates, most notably former President Donald Trump, have filed to run in the caucus, which will occur two days after the end of voting in the primary on Feb. 8. Still, running in the primary instead of the caucus could provide Pence with an opportunity to garner attention for a victory in a statewide presidential nominating contest that does not include Trump, the faraway GOP front-runner, on the ballot.

The Nevada Republican Party has barred candidates who file to run in the primary from running in the caucus and is charging a $55,000 caucus filing fee — rules that have been blasted by Never Back Down, a super PAC supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, as an attempt to rig the system to favor Trump.

The former vice president’s decision to skip the caucus means he will not be eligible to win Nevada delegates, which will be awarded based on the results of the caucus and will be used to determine the party’s presidential nominee at the Republican National Convention this summer. Nevada’s delegates represent about 1 percent of the total pool of national delegates.

Though the Nevada Republican Party intends to award delegates based on the results of the caucus, a state law passed in 2021 requires the secretary of state to hold a statewide presidential primary election if more than two candidates file to run. 

Pence, as of Thursday, is the fourth Republican presidential candidate to file to run in the primary (alongside John Anthony Castro, Hirsh Singh and Heath Fulkerson). Candidates who have filed to run in the caucus as of Thursday include Trump, Vivek Ramaswamy and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum. Filing for the party-run caucus closes Sunday, Oct. 15, while filing for the state-run primary closes Monday, Oct. 16.

In Republican presidential primary polls, Pence has generally lagged far behind Trump, as the former president has maintained an ample lead over the field. A recent CNN poll of Nevada voters conducted by research firm SSRS found that 65 percent of likely GOP caucusgoers would support Trump, followed by 13 percent for DeSantis and 3 percent for Pence, who was in a distant fifth place.

Pence is the first major Republican candidate to file for the primary, though as of Thursday, several bigger names, including DeSantis and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, have not yet filed for either contest. 

Compared with other early states, New Hampshire and Iowa, Nevada has taken a back seat in the presidential race. Among candidates polling consistently with more than 1 percent, only Trump, DeSantis and Ramaswamy have visited the Silver State.

Read more about the two nominating contests here.

Reporter Jacob Solis contributed to this report.


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