Jan 28, 2024 - Politics & Policy

"The fix is in": Why Trump is expected to sweep Nevada's delegates

Illustration of the state of Nevada forming a profile of Donald Trump's face.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Nevada's Republican delegates are all but locked up for former President Trump, even though the contest isn't for another week and a half.

Why it matters: Trump allies in Nevada's Republican Party gave him a runway to sweep the state's 26 delegates when they proceeded with the caucuses despite a state-sanctioned primary taking place two days earlier.

  • "This was clearly a move to basically set up where Trump really had no competition," Mike Noble, an independent pollster who specializes in the Southwest region, told Axios.

Driving the news: Former UN ambassador Nikki Haley is participating in the Feb. 6 state-run primary, which will not award any delegates.

  • A 2021 Nevada law said a state-run primary must take place if more than one candidate files for president.
  • The state GOP proceeded with holding its caucuses, which are scheduled for Feb. 8, and said candidates can't participate in both contests.
  • "The best way to describe it is the fix is in for the Don in Nevada," Noble said.

Zoom in: Caucuses often reward candidates with a strong voter base, said Daniel Lee, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

  • "Caucus voters are going to be your more enthusiastic, fervent supporters of the candidate ... precisely the type of supporters that Trump has," Lee said.
  • Trump dominated the 2016 Nevada Republican caucuses, beating second-place Sen. Marco Rubio by 22 percentage points.
  • "It gives each candidate the opportunity to perform. It's about getting their people out," Nevada GOP chairman Michael McDonald, a fake elector in 2020, said last year.

Zoom out: Trump advisers have been working behind the scenes with party activists to revise delegate selection rules in the former president's favor.

  • In California, which has the most delegates of any state, a new rule allows a candidate to win all of the state's 169 delegates if they receive a majority of the primary.
  • Delegates in California previously had been awarded in proportion to results in congressional districts.
  • Other states like Idaho, Louisiana and Michigan have made changes to their selection rules.

The bottom line: "Trump will get the delegates and Haley won't get any credit for a quote unquote, 'win' in the primaries," Noble said.

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