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Trump sweeps Nevada Republican caucus in race with no major challengers

The victory comes two days after a nonbinding state-run primary that saw top Trump rival Nikki Haley lose to “none of these candidates.”
Jacob Solis
Jacob Solis
Jannelle Calderon
Jannelle Calderon
Election 2024

Former President Donald Trump easily won Nevada’s Republican caucus in a race where he was functionally the only remaining candidate on the ballot, according to returns released  Thursday night.

With more than 60,000 votes counted as of 5:36 a.m. Friday, Trump led with 99.1 percent of the vote. That included 99 percent support in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas and accounted for roughly half (29,900) of those votes. 

The Silver State win secured 26 delegates for Trump, his largest single delegate haul thus far, and another electoral victory heading into a Republican primary in South Carolina later this month that could seal the 2024 Republican nomination for the former president. 

Ryan Binkley, a Texas banking CEO and pastor, was the only other active candidate on the caucus ballot. Early returns showed him with less than 1 percent of the vote. Four additional candidates — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — filed to participate in the caucus last October but ended their campaigns well before Thursday’s contest.

Trump’s Nevada win follows victories in Iowa — where he beat second-place Ron DeSantis by nearly 30 points — and New Hampshire, where he bested former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley by about 11 percentage points. Hours before Nevada’s caucus Thursday, Trump also won a caucus in the U.S. Virgin Islands by 48 points. 

“If we win this state, we easily win the election in November,” Trump told a crowd at the Treasure Island in Las Vegas Thursday night after the race was called. “We have to win the election.” 

It also comes after another de facto Trump win Tuesday, after “none of these candidates” trounced Haley in Nevada’s nonbinding Republican primary by a 2-1 margin. Of the original Republican field, only three major candidates — Haley, former Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) — filed to run in the primary, but Pence and Scott also ended their campaigns early. The state Republican Party adopted rules prohibiting candidates from running in both contests, with delegates only allocated to caucus participants.

The Trump campaign seized on the result this week, saying in a statement that Haley’s defeat was “humiliating, embarrassing and utterly overwhelming.” The result also provided cover for the campaign, which had begun to worry internally that Nevada’s caucus result could prove hollow if turnout dipped too low, according to a report from Axios

Read more: ‘The Trump train is a-comin’’: Nevada Republicans descend on GOP caucus sites

Voters gather for the 2024 Republican Caucus inside Spanish Springs Elementary School in Washoe County on Feb. 8, 2024. (Joey Lovato/The Nevada Independent).

‘Is there any way we can call the election for next Tuesday?’

At a victory party on the Las Vegas Strip — at a resort owned by Trump megadonor Phil Ruffin — Trump appeared eager to take the contest directly to President Joe Biden. 

In remarks that lasted less than 15 minutes and that came well before any substantial results were reported from Clark or Washoe counties, Trump pivoted to poll numbers that show him leading Biden in key swing states, asking: “Is there any way we can call the election for next Tuesday? That’s all I want.” 

Without any public confirmation from the state party, Trump also claimed turnout Thursday eclipsed the record Republican caucus turnout of 75,000 set in 2016. When Trump left the stage just after 9:30 p.m., only 371 votes across six rural counties had been reported — though several thousand voters were reported by media outlets earlier Thursday at voting sites in Southern and Northern Nevada. 

Around 10 p.m., a tranche of more than 23,000 votes from Clark County pushed Trump’s margin of victory over 99 percent — exceeding the 22,600 votes Haley received in the primary.  However, by early Friday morning, turnout had only reached about 60,000 votes, well short of the 2016 record.

In a speech delivered alongside Burgum and New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, Trump hammered immigration and called on the Supreme Court to “preserve democracy,” an apparent reference to a case heard Thursday concerning whether states have the power to kick Trump off the ballot using the 14th Amendment. 

“The Supreme Court, hopefully, will be doing something in terms of helping our country and preserving democracy,” Trump said. “We have to preserve our democracy.”

Trump also nodded to Haley’s Tuesday loss — sarcastically congratulating “none of the above” on their primary win. Burgum, taking the microphone briefly, said Nevada sent a signal to the nation: “This primary is over, President Trump has won.”

Supporters wait for former President Donald J. Trump to speak during an Election Night watch party at the Treasure Island on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Watch party turned victory party 

Enthusiastic Trump supporters filled a ballroom at the Treasure Island, several wearing white hats with “Team Trump Captain” embroidered to show off their role as caucus captains, who were in charge of tallying the votes.  

Eva Landau served as a caucus captain on Thursday evening. She said she regained trust in the electoral process after seeing and being part of the hand counting.

“This was very, very exciting … That's the way it's supposed to be — the election. You count by hand,” Landau, wearing a red “Latinas for Trump” T-shirt, said. “You say, ‘okay, Trump.’ Show to the camera, show to the people, one line until you get five, right? That's the transparency that we need in the United States.” 

For Landau, a 43-year-old originally from Bolivia, immigration, border security and human trafficking are her main concerns. Those issues dominated Trump’s speech during a rally in East Las Vegas two weeks ago. 

When asked how well Trump is appealing to Latino voters, which polling has shown are key to winning elections, Jesus Marquez, a political consultant and long-time Trump supporter, told The Nevada Independent that he saw “a lot” of Latino faces at the caucus location he attended.

“Just the fact that Latinos are getting involved with the caucus, [is significant because] that is not normally the case,” Marquez said. “[Trump] didn't just win but he made the people turn out to vote … even though there was no competition for him in this caucus, this is the initiation of a grassroots operation to win the state in November. This is the beginning of that — we're already in a general election mode.”

One week, two elections

This week’s bifurcated Republican contests — primary and caucus — are the end result of a monthslong dispute between a Nevada GOP determined to hold a traditional caucus and a 2021 state law creating presidential preference primaries for both major parties. 

Under that 2021 law — passed under unified Democratic control of state government — a state-run primary would be held so long as at least two candidates filed. It was a prelude to a move by the Democratic National Committee to bump Nevada up its nominating calendar, a move opposed at the time by Republicans

The Nevada Republican Party sued the state to stop the primary in May 2023, roughly four months before it would finalize the decision to hold the caucus. In July, a state judge ruled that both a primary and a caucus could move forward. Republicans and the state eventually agreed to drop the suit in January. 

But the state GOP has pitched its caucus as a way to reject many of the Democratic-backed election policy reforms adopted since 2020, including universal mail ballots. Under party rules, the caucus required in-person voting barring select exceptions, and pledged to use paper ballots, voter ID and a ban on super PAC participation in the caucus process. 

However, Republicans critical of Trump have criticized Nevada’s caucus rules as designed to benefit the former president. The super PAC ban in particular was derided by DeSantis’ super PAC, Nevada Back Down, as having “rigged” the process. Haley, who avoided Nevada outright, called the process a “scam” and “rigged from the start.”   

Also scrutinized: the myriad ties between state party leadership and the Trump campaign. 

Four party leaders — Chair Michael McDonald, Vice Chair Jim Hindle, National Committeeman Jim DeGraffenreid and Clark County Party Chair Jesse Law — were among six individuals indicted last year for their alleged role in the “fake elector” scheme designed to keep Trump in power after losing the 2020 election. 

A report from The New York Times last year found the Trump campaign continued to court McDonald ahead of the rules-making process for the caucus, including hosting him at his Mar-A-Lago club. The state party’s former executive director, Alida Benson, has since become the Trump campaign’s Nevada director. 

And in December, McDonald told a crowd at a Reno Trump rally: “You come out to your location, you walk in with your neighbors, you sit with your neighbors and tell them how great it is. And then you cast your ballot for Donald Trump.”

Update: Feb. 8, 2024 at 10:16 p.m. — This article was updated to include updated vote counts, as well as statements from Trump and reporting from Trump's victory party in Las Vegas.

Update: Feb. 9, 2024 at 8:15 a.m. — This article was updated to include updated vote counts and turnout figures.


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