The Nevada Republican Party is the gang that can’t shoot straight. That should come as no surprise given that state GOP Chair Michael McDonald was among six Republican “fake electors” indicted in December for falsely certifying that Donald Trump won Nevada in the 2020 presidential election. And McDonald’s convoluted efforts to rig the state’s Republican nominating contest on Trump’s behalf have turned out to be a major embarrassment for the GOP in a crucial swing state.
As the Associated Press reported, there’s a unique feature in Nevada elections that dates back to 1975. In statewide races, there is an option to vote for “None of These Candidates.”
In Nevada’s 1980 Democratic primary, according to the AP, Jimmy Carter won with about 38% of the vote, followed by “None of These Candidates” with about 34%, and Ted Kennedy in third place with about 29% of the vote.
But Tuesday’s Republican primary results were a major humiliation for former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. She “became the first presidential candidate from either party to lose a race to ‘None of These Candidates,” according to the Associated Press.
And it wasn’t even close.
“None of These Candidates” won a landslide victory with 63% of the vote, to Haley’s 30.5%. Republican front-runner Donald Trump was not on the ballot, but former Vice President Mike Pence (4%) and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott (1.4%) remained, despite both dropping out of the race.
Trump’s name wasn’t on the primary ballot because he chose instead to compete in Thursday’s GOP caucuses, which will actually determine the allocation of Nevada’s 26 delegates to the Republican National Convention.
The state GOP introduced a rule that bars any candidate who filed for the primary from running in the caucus. That means that Haley’s name won’t even be on the caucus ballot. The only other candidate on the caucus ballot is virtually unknown Texas pastor and businessman Ryan Binkley.
Ahead of Tuesday’s election, Nevada’s Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo and other party officials urged voters who turned out for the meaningless primary to vote for “None of These Candidates” in a display of support for Trump.
Needless to say, Republican primary voters were left somewhat confused.
The Nevada Independent:
In Clark County, 65-year-old Ricardo Terrazas cast his ballot for none of the candidates. He said he will caucus for Trump on Thursday but decided to participate in Tuesday’s primary to “vote against the process.” He called the primary — which is new in Nevada and came after former Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak signed a bill requiring one in 2021 — “a waste of time and money.”
Washoe County voter Russ Bream, 57, echoed that sentiment, saying he didn’t feel the candidates on the primary ballot “were acceptable.” Rudy Roybal, 43, was disappointed to learn that former President Donald Trump was not on Tuesday's ballot and said he decided not to vote.
As for the Democratic primary, President Joe Biden cruised to victory with 89% of the vote. However, “None of These Candidates” did place second with 5.8%, ahead of Marianne Williamson’s 2.9%. Silver State Democrats will next hold district meetings to choose delegates to a state convention, which will then choose Nevada’s 49 delegates to the national convention.
Haley’s loss to “None of These Candidates” might be a bit less embarrassing to the former U.N ambassador since she didn’t bother to step foot in Nevada to campaign.
The Nevada Independent reported her campaign’s frustration with the state party.
Earlier this week, Haley’s campaign manager said the campaign has “not spent a dime nor an ounce of energy on Nevada,” and she accused the Nevada GOP of rigging the caucus for Trump.
Haley told reporters in New Hampshire that her campaign was only “going to focus on the states that are fair.”
“Talk to the people in Nevada: They will tell you the caucuses have been sealed up, bought and paid for a long time,” she said. ”That’s the Trump train rolling through that.”
After the Nevada primary, Haley campaign spokeswoman Olivia Perez-Cubas put out this statement:
”Even Donald Trump knows that when you play penny slots the house wins. We didn’t bother to play a game rigged for Trump. We’re full steam ahead in South Carolina and beyond.”
Yet polls show that the twice-impeached, four-times-indicted former president holds a commanding lead over Haley in the Feb. 24 primary in her home state.
Trump mocked Haley in a social media post, as The Hill reported.
“A bad night for Nikki Haley,” Trump said in a Truth Social post early Wednesday morning. “Losing by almost 30 points in Nevada to ‘None of These Candidates.’”
“Watch, she’ll soon claim Victory!” he added, a dig at Haley’s New Hampshire primary concession speech last month when she claimed a minor win in overperforming expectations despite an 11-point loss.
It’s possible that the Nevada GOP’s heavy-handed handling of the nominating contest might alienate some Republican voters who have doubts about Trump or support Haley.
Vox reported that the mess began when the state Legislature passed a bill with bipartisan support to hold primary elections instead of caucuses. As previously noted, the 2021 legislation was signed by then-Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, and mandated that the primary be held on the first Tuesday in February.
But state Republican leaders—led by McDonald—opposed the changes and decided to continue awarding the state’s nominating convention delegates based on the results of a party-run caucus. The party also charged a $55,000 fee for candidates to get on the caucus ballot!
There were allegations that the caucus rules were crafted to favor Trump — specifically, a new rule enacted in September, which banned super PAC employees from attending the caucuses.
Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who later dropped out of the race, claimed that the rule put them at a severe and unfair disadvantage. DeSantis had depended heavily on two super PACs for support in early voting states. Haley’s campaign has also relied on super PACs, though to a lesser degree, now that she has the support of the Koch network. That left them without a fighting chance against Trump, who already commanded the kind of grassroots support that is typically rewarded in caucuses.
And as for Biden, he’s played things just right in the state. He visited Las Vegas Monday and met with members of the influential culinary workers union, The New York Times reported.
Biden might even have ended up walking a picket line, as he did with striking United Auto Workers members in Michigan last September, but the union averted a planned strike by reaching contract agreements with Las Vegas hotels over the weekend.
After his primary victory, Biden issued a statement thanking Nevada voters for their support:
“I want to thank the voters of Nevada for sending me and Kamala Harris to the White House four years ago, and for setting us one step further on that same path again tonight. We must organize, mobilize, and vote. Because one day, when we look back, we’ll be able to say, when American democracy was a risk, we saved it — together,”
When we consider the health crisis that shaped the 2020 election, it’s so great to see Biden on the road, connecting with voters.