Former President Donald Trump won the Nevada Republican caucuses Thursday, in a blowout victory that was widely expected. One of his fellow Republicans, Nikki Haley, didn't even show. The rather unconventional nature of the Nevada election to be split into two different days and across a primary and a caucus is what makes it prominent.
Even in this complexity, Republicans from Nevada have strongly supported Trump as the candidate of their choice to challenge President Biden at the general election in November. But the triumph for Trump at the caucuses was not just that.
In a remarkable act of loyalty, his supporters also expressed a very significant protest vote against Haley in the primary held two days earlier. In this primary, in which Trump was not a contender, Haley drew about 23,000 votes, but the alternative of "none of these candidates" drew an astounding more than 47,000 votes.
It should be said that the Nevada Republicans had the chance to vote in the primary as well as in the caucuses. Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo, a big Trump supporter, made headlines last week when he publicly said he would challenge Haley in the primary and support Trump in the caucus.
By all appearances, Lombardo's strategy has struck a chord with a sizable portion of Trump's base. Nevada's dual system of a primary and a caucus is a response to strife between the state's Republican and Democratic parties.
This year, the Democrats in the Nevada legislature approved legislation moving the state from a caucus to a primary. However, the Nevada GOP managed to get their way about continuing with the caucus system, since they were rather insistent, even though they did not succeed in canceling the state primary.
Turning Eyes to South Carolina
Haley's campaign team has downplayed the results in Nevada, saying that they did not put money or energy into the state. They now cast their eyes on South Carolina where Haley was governor from 2011 to 2017.
In addition to his Nevada win, Trump also scored his first victory in a nominating contest held at a U.S. territory, winning the Republican caucuses of the U.S. Virgin Islands on Tuesday and taking all four delegates at stake in the U.S.
territory. This was a race where Haley campaigned. According to the Associated Press, Trump took in 74% of the votes to Haley's 26%. They would solidify Trump's position as the front-runner for the Republican nomination. The count of delegates is nearly 60 to Haley's 17.
A nomination requires a candidate to win 1,215 delegates. The way for Trump to this milestone may be halved in the South Carolina primary on February 24 and is likely to continue by Super Tuesday on March 5 when 15 states will hold primaries or caucuses.
A Trump sweep in South Carolina and on Super Tuesday would essentially wipe away the already long-shot odds Haley has of winning the nomination. However, if things changed and it became evident that Trump was a very poor choice for the Republican Party, or there emerged some serious legal issues that could prevent his running, the party might want to go with someone else. In such a scenario, Haley's accumulation of delegates may position her as a possible nominee successor.