Donald Trump won the Nevada caucuses Thursday, as expected, while his fellow Republican Nikki Haley was not on the ballot.
The Nevada election has been marred by the confusing way in which it has played out, splitting votes between two contests on two different days.
Nonetheless, Nevada Republicans made clear that they want Trump to be their nominee against President Biden in November’s general election, which is open to all voters.
Trump not only won the caucuses, but his supporters also registered a resounding protest vote against Haley in the primary two days earlier.
Nevada Republicans were able to participate in both the primary and the caucuses. One prominent Trump supporter, Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo, said he planned to vote against Haley in the primary and to caucus for Trump. Clearly, many other Trump supporters did the same.
Why did Nevada do it this way?
The confusing situation in Nevada — with both a primary and a caucus — stems from a disagreement between Republicans and Democrats in that state. Democrats in the Nevada legislature passed a law in 2021 that moved the state from a caucus to a primary system.
But Nevada Republicans did not want to use a primary, and last year the Nevada GOP insisted on using a caucus. They got their wish, but when the Nevada GOP also tried to get the state primary canceled, state officials refused.
Members of Haley's campaign downplayed the result, saying they had “not spent a dime nor an ounce of energy on Nevada” as they look ahead to South Carolina, where she was governor from 2011 to 2017.
Trump wins Virgin Islands caucuses
The former president also won the Virgin Islands Republican caucuses on Thursday, picking up all four delegates available from the U.S. territory in a contest that Haley had actually campaigned in.
Per the AP, Trump received 74% of the votes and Haley 26%.
“We expected to win, but we didn’t expect to win by that much," Trump told party officials in St. Thomas by phone after the results came in. “You are incredible people I will never forget.”
What happens next?
Trump remains the favorite to win the Republican nomination. His Nevada win nearly doubles his delegate haul, up to around almost 60, compared to Haley’s 17 delegates.
A total of 1,215 delegates is needed to formally clinch the nomination, but Trump could effectively do so in a few weeks. The next contest is the South Carolina primary on Feb. 24, followed by Super Tuesday on March 5. A total of 15 states will hold a primary or caucus that day.
If Trump wins overwhelmingly in South Carolina and on Super Tuesday, Haley’s path to the nomination — which is already exceedingly narrow — will have all but disappeared.
But if Trump were to somehow become undesirable to the Republican Party, or if he were legally disqualified from running, the party would have to decide on an alternative. The more delegates that Haley accumulates, the more that makes her the next person in line to be considered for the nomination.