February 26th, 2024

The ‘none of these candidates’ option wins Nevada GOP primary, a symbolic rejection of Nikki Haley

By Michelle L. Price, Jonathan J. Cooper And Gabe Stern, The Associated Press on February 6, 2024.

LAS VEGAS (AP) – The “none of these candidates” option has won in Nevada’s symbolic Republican presidential primary contest, an embarrassing result for Nikki Haley, who was the only major candidate on the ballot.

The former U.N. ambassador opted to compete in the state-run primary election Tuesday instead of the party’s presidential caucuses, the only contest in the state that awards delegates toward the nomination. Former President Donald Trump is the only major candidate competing in the caucuses on Thursday and will likely sweep the state’s Republican delegates as a result.

Utilizing a quirk of Nevada election law, more voters on Tuesday marked their primary ballots for “none of these candidates” than cast their votes for Haley.

Haley had said beforehand she was going to “focus on the states that are fair” and did not make much effort to campaign in the western state.

Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo, a Republican, had announced beforehand that he would vote for “none of these candidates” on Tuesday. Several Republicans interviewed heading to the polls said they intended to do the same.

“I think it’s my duty,” said Jeff Turner, a 65-year-old voting in Reno. “I think we all have the right to vote, we ought to vote. And even if it’s none of these candidates, it’s at least stating where I’m at. And I’m hoping others will see that.”

Haley’s campaign balked at the $55,000 fee the Nevada GOP was charging candidates to participate in the caucuses.

“We have not spent a dime nor an ounce of energy on Nevada. We made the decision early on that we were not going to pay $55,000 to a Trump entity to participate in a process that is rigged for Trump,” Haley campaign manager Betsy Ankney told reporters on Monday. “Nevada is not and has not been our focus.”

Nevada lawmakers added “none of these candidates” as an option in all statewide races as a way post-Watergate for voters to participate but express dissatisfaction with their choices. “None” can’t win an elected office but it came in first in primary congressional contests in 1976 and 1978. It also finished ahead of both George Bush and Edward Kennedy in Nevada’s 1980 presidential primaries.

The caucuses on Thursday are the only Nevada contest that count toward the GOP’s presidential nomination. But they were seen as especially skewed in favor of Trump because of the intense grassroots support they require from candidates and new state party rules that benefitted him further.

Trump is expected to handily win the caucuses, which should deliver him all 26 of the state’s delegates. Delegates are party members, activists and elected officials who vote at the national party conventions to formally select the party’s nominee.

Nevada, the third state in the field after Iowa and New Hampshire, was set to hold a state-run primary election instead of party-run caucuses after Democrats controlling the Legislature changed the law to try to boost participation.

Caucuses typically require voters to show up for an in-person meeting at a certain day or time, while elections can offer more flexibility to participate, with polls open for most of the day on Election Day, along with absentee or early voting.

But Nevada Republicans chose to hold party-run caucuses instead, saying they wanted certain rules in place, like a requirement that participants show a government-issued ID.

The caucuses require a candidate to intensely organize supporters around the state in order to be competitive, a feat that Trump, the former president and prohibitive front-runner, was easily positioned to do.

The Nevada GOP also restricted the involvement of super PACs like the one Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was relying on to boost his now-suspended campaign. And the party barred candidates from appearing both on the primary ballot and in the caucuses.

Former Vice President Mike Pence and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott also signed up to compete in Nevada’s primary instead of the caucuses before ending their presidential campaigns.

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Price reported from Washington and Stern from Reno, Nevada.

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