Nevada: Former US President Donald Trump secured a triumph in Nevada’s Republican presidential caucuses on Thursday after his GOP rival Nikki Haley skipped the caucuses, which are the only contest in Nevada that counts toward the GOP nomination, citing an unfair process favouring Trump. The victory gives Trump all of Nevada’s 26 delegates and further bolsters his chances of securing the Republican nomination for November.
Trump also won at a Republican caucus held on Thursday in the US Virgin Islands, despite officials flouting several GOP rules by holding the contest earlier than announced. The caucus is the third Republican contest held this election season with delegates at stake, with Trump receiving 73.98 per cent of the votes, while Haley received 26.02 per cent.
“I want to thank you all. We had a tremendous victory. We expected to win, but we didn’t expect to win by that much. You are incredible people I will never forget,” Trump said in brief remarks after the results were announced. Joining Trump on Thursday’s ballot were Haley, Chris Christie, Ron DeSantis, Perry Johnson and Vivek Ramaswamy, although only Trump and Haley are still in the running.
Republican party officials in the US Virgin Islands said they opted to hold the contest early to ensure the US territory played an important role in the nomination of a candidate. GOP rules state that only Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina can hold primaries or caucuses before March 1. In addition, any contest held before March 15 must award delegates proportionally, while the US Virgin Islands did so via ranked-choice voting.
The Nevada presidential caucuses
Trump’s supporters waited in long lines on Thursday in Nevada to get their chance to cast their votes for the former president. At one caucus site at a Reno-area elementary school, a line of nearly 1,000 people stretched around the corner and down the street 20 minutes after the caucuses opened.
“We certainly did well in a primary that didn’t matter,” Trump said, adding that he expected “to have a very big night”. Republicans are increasingly converging behind Trump while he faces a deluge of legal problems, including 91 criminal charges in four separate cases.
The former President is also flexing his influence both in Congress — where Republicans rejected a border security deal after he pushed against it — and at the Republican National Committee, as chairwoman Ronna McDaniel could resign in the coming weeks after he publicly questioned whether she should stay in the job.
However, things are not so smooth for the presidential frontrunnerm as a federal appeals court this week ruled that Trump can face trial on charges that he plotted to overturn the results of the 2020 election, rejecting his claims that he is immune from prosecution. The US Supreme Court on Thursday heard arguments in a case trying to keep Trump from the 2024 presidential ballot over his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss, where the judges appeared skeptical of the effort.
He is in a strong position heading into March to collect the 1,215 delegates he needs to secure the nomination, after winning the caucuses in Iowa and New Hampshire. Nevada’s GOP decided to bypass a primary election prescribed by the Legislature and instead hold caucuses to determine which candidate will receive its delegates, a decision Trump’s team supported.
What about Nikki Haley?
Former UN Ambassador Haley, the sole remaining contender against Trump, rejected the caucuses as rigged and decided to instead run in Tuesday’s purely symbolic GOP primary, where she suffered an embarrasing defeat by the “none of the candidates” options chosen by Trump supporters and voters. Trump did not compete in the primary, which doesn’t award any delegates needed to win the GOP nomination.
Haley lost Nevada’s Republican primary handily on Tuesday even though she was the only candidate listed on the ballot, further setting back her chances of defeating Trump for the Republican presidential nomination. She secured just 31 per cent in the contest, well behind the 63 per cent of the ballots cast for “none of these candidates,” according to Nevada election officials.
“A bad night for Nikki Haley. Losing by almost 30 points in Nevada to ‘None of These Candidates.’ Watch, she’ll soon claim Victory!” Trump posted on Truth Social after Haley’s defeat in the primary. However, Haley’s spokesperson downplayed her Nevada loss, arguing that the process favoured Trump.
The Trump campaign told supporters only to worry about Thursday, but many of his allies in state and local GOP committees made it known that they could still show support for Trump by registering their opposition to Haley. “At the end of the day, the disrespect that Nikki Haley showed us, she just got reciprocated,” Nevada GOP Chairman Michael McDonald said on Tuesday night.
Haley’s team had spent considerable energy in recent days trying to manage expectations in Nevada, where opinion polls had consistently shown her trailing Trump by wide margins, even by the standards of a modern Republican Party dominated by the former president. “We have not spent a dime nor an ounce of energy on Nevada,” said Haley’s campaign manager Betsey Ankney.
(with inputs from AP)
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