Trump poised for big win ahead of Nevada GOP caucus
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.”
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.