Donald Trump wins Nevada’s Republican caucuses after being the only major candidate to participate

Election 2024 Nevada Voting Process
Nevada GOP chair Michael McDonald (right) shakes hands with Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump at a campaign event, Jan. 27 in Las Vegas, Nev.
John Locher | AP

Updated 10:30 p.m.

Former President Donald Trump won Nevada’s Republican presidential caucuses Thursday after he was the only major candidate to compete.

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley skipped the caucuses, which are the only contest in Nevada that counts toward the GOP nomination. Haley cited what she considered an unfair process favoring Trump and instead ran in Nevada’s symbolic state-run presidential primary on Tuesday, when she finished behind the “none of these candidates” option.

Trump’s win in Nevada gives him all 26 of the state’s delegates. He needs to accrue 1,215 delegates to formally clinch the party’s nomination and could reach that number in March.

Trump also gained another win Thursday at a Republican caucus held in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where officials flouted several GOP party rules, including holding the contest earlier than allowed. That caucus is the third Republican contest held this election season with delegates at stake, with Trump receiving 73.98% of the votes and Nikki Haley 26.02%.

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Though Trump has been the front-runner, Nevada’s caucuses were seen as especially skewed in his favor due to the intense grassroots support caucuses require candidates to harness around a state in order to win. Nevada’s state party last year barred candidates from running both in the primary and caucuses and also restricted the role of super PACs like the groups that were key to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign before he dropped out.

Election 2024 Nevada
People wait for the caucus to begin at Spanish Springs Elementary School in Sparks, Nev., Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024.
Gabe Stern | AP

Caucuses typically require voters to show up for an in-person meeting at a certain day or time, while elections can offer more flexibility to participate, with polls open for most of the day on Election Day along with absentee or early voting. Nevada Republicans said they wanted certain rules in place like a requirement that participants show a government-issued ID.

Trump's supporters waited in long lines Thursday. At one caucus site at a Reno-area elementary school, a line of nearly 1,000 people stretched around the corner and down the street 20 minutes after the caucuses opened.

Voters in line, some of whom were wearing Trump hats and shirts, said they came out to back the former president in a contest that would give him a third straight win in the Republican presidential race.

Election 2024 Nevada
People wait in line to enter the caucus site at Spanish Springs Elementary School in Sparks, Nev., Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024.
Gabe Stern | AP

“I think it’s about backing Trump up and giving him the support that he needs. And to let people know that we’re supporting him,” said Heather Kirkwood, 47.

Trump has long been immensely popular among Nevada Republicans, but he had other perceived advantages among the party’s key figures. Nevada GOP Party Chair Michael McDonald and the state’s Republican National Committeeman Jim DeGraffenreid were among six Republicans in the state indicted on felony charges that they were so-called fake electors who sent certificates to Congress falsely claiming Trump won Nevada in 2020.

From Nevada, the GOP contest pivots to the South Carolina primary on Feb. 24. Trump remains popular in the deeply conservative state but Haley, who won two elections as South Carolina’s governor, is hoping to benefit from a home-state advantage. Trump is eyeing a massive delegate haul during the March 5 Super Tuesday contests, which would move him closer to becoming the GOP’s presumptive nominee.