© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally ahead of the Republican caucus in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., January 27, 2024. REUTERS/Ronda Churchill/File Photo
By Tim Reid
(Reuters) -Donald Trump won Republican presidential nominating caucuses in Nevada and the U.S. Virgin Islands on Thursday, moving closer to becoming his party’s White House standard-bearer in a likely general election rematch with U.S. President Joe Biden in November.
Trump, the frontrunner in his party’s nominating race, was the only major candidate competing in Nevada’s caucuses and was set to win the state’s 26 delegates to the party’s nominating convention in July after being projected the winner on Thursday night by Edison Research.
Earlier on Thursday, Trump easily won the U.S. Virgin Islands caucuses, adding four to his delegate haul. The former U.S. president won 182 votes, or 74% of the 246 votes cast there, beating his last remaining rival in the Republican race, Nikki Haley, who won 26% support with 64 votes.
The Nevada caucuses, organized by the Trump-friendly Nevada Republican Party, came two days after a state-run primary election, which saw a humiliating defeat for Haley.
Despite being the only major candidate on Tuesday’s Republican primary ballot, Haley was still roundly defeated after tens of thousands of Trump supporters turned out to mark their ballots with “none of these candidates,” an option which garnered 63% of the vote to Haley’s 30%.
Trump spent Thursday morning watching coverage of arguments in a case he appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court concerning Colorado’s decision to remove him from this year’s ballot for engaging in “insurrection” relating to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The justices appeared skeptical of Colorado’s actions, expressing concern about the precedent it could set.
Speaking to reporters before he left Florida for Nevada, Trump called the Colorado case “more election interference by the Democrats.”
After his win, Trump appeared before supporters in Las Vegas.
“I want to thank the great people of Nevada,” he said to cheers. He called Thursday’s Supreme Court arguments “a beautiful sight to watch”.
Trump is close to winning the Republican nomination after back-to-back wins in Iowa and New Hampshire last month.
Haley, a former U.N. ambassador, is refusing to quit the nominating race, a move which has infuriated Trump. Haley is vowing to stay in the race and make a potential last stand in her home state of South Carolina, which holds a primary election on Feb. 24.
Haley has no clear path to the nomination and trails Trump badly in opinion polls in South Carolina, where she was governor for six years.
The competing Republican ballots in Nevada this week were the result of a conflict between the state Republican Party – run by Trump allies – and a 2021 state law that mandates a primary must be held.
Presidential nominating caucuses are run by state political parties, not the state, and the Nevada Republican Party decided to stick with a caucus on Thursday. It was viewed as more helpful to Trump because of his superior ground game in the Western state.
Haley chose to compete in Tuesday’s primary. Trump went for the caucus. The state party ruled that only candidates contesting Thursday’s caucus could compete for delegates.
Despite the results in Nevada having little impact on the Republican nominating contest, the state will be a hotly contested battleground because its population can swing to either party and play a significant role in November’s presidential election.
In 2020, Biden beat Trump in Nevada by 2.4 percentage points. Opinion polls show a likely rematch between Biden and Trump in the state will be close.
About 30% of Nevada’s population is self-described as Latino or Hispanic on the U.S. Census, and Republicans are making some inroads with these voters nationwide.
Nevada also has many potential swing voters: There are 768,000 registered as “nonpartisan,” more than those registered as either Democrat or Republican, according to the latest state figures.