By Jim Ellis — Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024
PresidentNevada Primary: Haley’s Big “Beauty Contest” Loss — Former President Donald Trump at least indirectly won a primary last night without his name even appearing on the ballot.
In the Nevada Republican election, the names of former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, ex-Vice President Mike Pence, and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) were on the ballot, along with the option, “None of These Candidates,” a voting choice unique to Nevada elections. The candidate filing deadline was in October, thus explaining why Pence and Scott, though now withdrawn from the presidential campaign, are still on the Silver State ballot.
In the new Nevada system, Republicans held what is commonly referred to as a “beauty contest” primary, meaning an election that does not apportion delegates from the popular vote totals. An accompanying caucus system will be in place tomorrow night, which is the Republican mechanism that has the power to apportion delegates. Under the party rules, candidates could enter the primary or the caucuses, but not both.
On the caucus ballot will be the names of only Donald Trump and also-ran candidate Ryan Binkley. Therefore, expect Trump to sweep all of Nevada’s 26 Republican delegates.
Clearly, most of the “None of These Candidates” voters were Trump supporters. They were likely following Gov. Joe Lombardo’s (R) lead who announced days before the primary that he would vote in the beauty contest event and choose the “None of These Candidates” options.
It appears that the “None of These Candidates” ballot line will end the counting with approximately 63 percent of the vote as compared to Haley’s 31 percent, and place first in all 17 of Nevada’s counties.
The primary was held because a new Nevada election law required presidential primary elections for all political parties. The Nevada Republican Party, however, chose to continue effectively operating through their traditional caucus system; hence, the reason for their beauty contest-style vote prior to tomorrow’s caucus meetings.
Turnout is difficult to gauge. Approximately 70,000 total votes will be cast in this first-ever Nevada Republican presidential primary once the final tally is recorded. This number must then be added to those who will attend Thursday’s caucus meetings to draw a true picture of the Nevada GOP participation rate. At that point, we will be able to measure this state’s 2024 voter enthusiasm.
The Democrats — President Biden easily won the party primary with approximately 89 percent of the vote, defeating “None of These Candidates” (six percent) and author Marianne Williamson (three percent). Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) was not on the ballot because he became a candidate after the state’s filing deadline had closed.
Since this is the first Democratic presidential primary, as well, it is again difficult to gauge turnout. It appears the complete participation total could end as high as 114,000. In comparison, when then-Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) was running for re-election in 2022, the Democratic primary participation number topped 157,000, in a race featuring only the governor and a minor candidate. Sisolak would then go onto lose to Lombardo, who at the time was the Clark County Sheriff, in the general election.
The big question concerning Haley is to see how long she will continue her campaign, since it is abundantly clear that the national Republican electorate favors Trump. The next Republican primary is scheduled for Feb. 24 in Haley’s home state of South Carolina.
With polling suggesting leads for Trump approaching a 2:1 ratio in the Palmetto State, will she risk losing before a partisan electorate that has twice propelled her to the governorship? This may be the last remaining unanswered question of the 2024 Republican presidential nomination campaign.