Nikki Haley loses Trump-less Nevada primary to ‘none of these candidates’

Nevada’s primary concluded on Tuesday evening with a loss for Nikki Haley in a state where she refused to compete against frontrunner Donald Trump.

Thanks to a disagreement over Nevada’s switch from a caucus system to primaries after 2020 (which ended in a court battle), the Nevada Republican Party is holding two contests in 2024. The first was a state-sanctioned primary, which Ms Haley was projected by the AP and other outlets to lose to “none of these candidates”, on Tuesday evening. The second will be a round of caucuses held on Thursday.

Mr Trump is running in the caucuses; Ms Haley’s only rivals had all exited the race before Tuesday. And thanks to rules allowing political parties to run their own nominating contests as they see fit, the results of Thursday’s caucuses will determine who takes Nevada’s 26 delegates to the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee.

Nikki Haley and Donald Trump each competed in separate contests in Nevada (AP / Getty)
Nikki Haley and Donald Trump each competed in separate contests in Nevada (AP / Getty)

Ms Haley’s campaign has derided the caucus system in Nevada as “rigged” for Mr Trump and said repeatedly that she was refusing to participate. This line of defence has irked officials with Nevada’s Republican Party, who accused Ms Haley in turn of being afraid to challenge the clear frontrunner for the Republican nomination in their state.

“We have not spent a dime nor an ounce of energy on Nevada. We aren't going to pay $55,000 to a Trump entity to participate in a process that is rigged for Trump. Nevada is not and has never been our focus. I’m truly not sure what the Trump team is up to out there but they seem pretty spun up about it,” Haley campaign manager Betsy Ankey said earlier this week.

Ms Haley’s campaign is instead pouring resources into South Carolina, where she served as governor, and looking ahead to states set to vote on Super Tuesday in early March. Ms Haley is holding her first rally in California on Wednesday and has held several across her home state as she pushes for a victory there, increasingly desperate to prove that the Republican nominating contest’s outcome isn’t decided.

An 11-point margin of victory for Mr Trump in New Hampshire, combined with his 51-point total in the Iowa caucuses, has led to many Republicans in Washington declaring the race over. Ms Haley’s campaign has furiously resisted this notion, even as President Joe Biden turns up his attacks on his presumed 2024 opponent.

Her campaign has pressed on after coming closer than expected — but not close enough — in the Granite State. Ms Haley’s team reported their best fundraising month yet in January, slightly trailing Mr Trump’s haul, while the candidate herself has taken a sharper tone against the frontrunner and his increasingly burdensome legal issues.

South Carolina’s Republican primary, the next real contest on the 2024 calendar, is set for 24 February.