Haley opts for state-run primary, DeSantis picks party-run caucus

By: - October 16, 2023 1:17 pm

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley campaigning in Iowa on Sept. 30, 2023. (Photo by Robin Opsahl/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

The cast is set for Nevada’s duel Republican presidential contests, as the last two well-known holdouts announced which contest they’d compete in.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has filed for the Feb. 6 Nevada presidential preference primary administered by the state, according to the Nevada Secretary of State’s office.

And the New York Times reported Sunday that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will enter the Feb. 8 presidential caucus being held by the Nevada State Republican Party.

In 2021, Nevada lawmakers enacted legislation intended to replace presidential caucuses with presidential primaries. The Republican Party has opposed the law, and will conduct its own caucus.

Under the law, the Secretary of State’s office is mandated to hold a primary, whether the state party supports it or not, so long as two candidates file.

The party has declared that anyone who participates in the primary will not be allowed to participate in the party’s caucus.

The party will also not be taking the state primary results into account when allocating delegates to the national nominating convention, and will take into account caucus results instead.

Haley’s decision reported Monday makes three “major” candidates – i.e., candidates who have qualified for nationally televised Republican debates – who will be in the primary. The other two are former Vice-president Mike Pence and Haley’s fellow South Carolinian, Sen. Tim Scott.

After Nevada, the next presidential contest is the South Carolina primary. While Nevada’s state primary results won’t influence Nevada’s delegate count, a victory by either Haley or Scott would give them momentum headed into their home-state contest.

The DeSantis campaign and its affiliated political action committee had been critical of the caucus, and in August a spokesman for the PAC referred to Nevada state party chair Michael McDonald as a “Trump puppet.” McDonald was one of the Nevadans participating in the Trump circle’s fake elector scheme after the 2020 election.

A caucus rule adopted by the state party last month restricts the use of super PACs  in caucus organizing, which was was widely seen as being directed at DeSantis, whose campaign has relied heavily on the “Never Back Down” PAC.

The DeSantis decision makes him the fifth “major” candidate to file for the caucus. That group includes, Donald Trump, who lost the presidential election in Nevada to Joe Biden in 2020, and who is the prohibitive favorite for the caucus, as he is for the nomination. The other candidates in the caucus will be business personality Vivek Ramaswamy, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.

Nevada will be the third state in the Republican nominating process, following Iowa and New Hampshire. However, candidates have paid scant if any attention to Nevada, focusing instead on the two earlier states and the one that follows, South Carolina

Multiple obscure candidates have also been attracted to both the Nevada primary and the caucus.

Two Republican presidential contests within two days of each other is expected to create substantial confusion among Republican voters.

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