The Republican Party’s American electoral season, which began with the Iowa caucus then the New Hampshire primary, has just concluded its third stage: Nevada. This time, to make things even more complex, Republican voters will have voted in both a primary and a caucus (those Democrats “only” voted in a primary).
In turn, the western state of the United States will have been the center of attention of the American media for several weeks. But unlike Iowa and New Hampshire, respectively “red” and “blue” states, Nevada has not finished making headlines this year.
Nevada is the archetypal “purple” state
Americans use three expressions: purple states or “Purple States,” swing states or “pivot states” and finally battleground states or “battleground states.” Purple, between red (Republican Party) and blue (Democratic Party), corresponds to a state that has not voted consistently and regularly for the same side in the last elections. So, Nevada has been a purple state for twenty to thirty years, having historically been a red state. Iowa, formerly swing state or purple, became “red” and New Hampshire, formerly red, became “purple”, even “blue”.
Actually, “swing state” And “battleground state” are almost interchangeable terms. To be a swing state Or battleground state Before an election, it is enough for voting intentions to be close. In fact, most states (except Maine and Nebraska who use a form of proportionality) will grant all of their electors to the candidate who obtains the majority, whether overwhelming or obtained on the razor’s edge (this is the principle of “winner takes all”).
For the 2024 presidential election, the battleground states will be Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin (where the results in 2020 were very close in favor of Joe Biden). Four years ago, Nevada had already been the scene of electoral chaos: after the cancellation of the Republican caucus in 2019, Joe Biden (50.06%) won against Donald Trump (47.67%). by only 33,596 votes difference. But immediately the Republicans had denounced a massive “fraud”which they estimated at 3,000 votes, allegations then dismissed by the Nevada Supreme Court.
Nevada will be the scene of a fierce clash between the two official candidates, with hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising investments, dozens of electoral rallies and numerous televised debates. So how did a historically conservative state turn purple? Between 1968 and 1992, Republican candidates won each time.
Then things started to change. For what? In the United States, the evolution of the electoral map of each state is above all the product of internal migrations within the country. Thus, in the case of Nevada, two demographic phenomena contributed to transforming a conservative state into a purple state (Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, and Washoe County, which includes Reno, vote Democratic; the other fourteen counties vote Republican ).
First factor: the Latino vote. The Hispanic population has grown from 25,000 to nearly 900,000 in sixty years, almost a third of Nevada’s population. Mainly concentrated in the South (the Las Vegas region is one of the largest employers in the service industry), it tends to be less socially conservative than Latinos in Texas or New Mexico and continues to vote Democratic (Joe Biden would still be 14 points ahead of Donald Trump among Latinos in Nevada).
Second factor: population migration to Nevada from California, a quintessential blue state: in 2016, whether Hillary Clinton won the “popular vote” against Donald Trump by a margin of approximately 2.9 million votersshe won the Californian popular vote by a margin of 4.27 million; without California, Clinton would therefore have lost the popular vote.
Between 2015 and 2019, 250,000 Californians have settled in Nevada, profoundly changing the electoral map of Washoe County. Finally, we have a Republican governor, two Democratic senators, a Democratic assembly and Senate, but one of the most fiercely pro-Trump regional leaderships of the Republican Party. With one result, in a country that has never been so divided: the chaos of the 2024 primaries.
A primary without Donald Trump and a caucus without Nikki Haley
In 2021, following the 2020 primary fiasco, the assembly controlled by the Democrats votes a law establishing a primary as a method of allocating delegates to the Democratic and Republican conventions (the Democrats seek to get rid of the caucuses, because they are not democratic enough; the Republicans seek to keep them, because more close to their “ideal” of direct democracy). Immediately, the regional leadership of the Republican Party protested and filed a lawsuit against the State. After an initial rejection by a court in July 2023, the local GOP appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court before withdrawing its complaint barely a month ago.
In summary, the primary (paid and organized by the state) was held on Tuesday, February 6, but without Donald Trump on the ballot, and the caucus on Thursday, February 8, but without the participation of Nikki Haley. To understand, we must do a little constitutional law: the electoral mechanics are left to the discretion of the States, but the parties have all the power over the method of allocating delegates, who will decide on the candidate during the conventions which will be held during the summer, in July 2024 for the Republicans and in August for the Democrats.
However, the leadership of the Nevada Republican Party is controlled by supporters of Donald Trump. So the local GOP chairman, Michael McDonald, is one of six Republicans indicted for fraudulently certifying Donald Trump’s presidential victory in Nevada, where Joe Biden was ultimately declared the winner. The governor of the state, Joe Lombardo, pro-Trump “by necessity”, tried to reason with his “allies” in order to avoid electoral chaos. But faced with the stubbornness of MAGA (Make America Great Again) supporters, he had to give up. He finally indicated that he would vote “None of the Above” (none of the candidates presented) during the primary and Donald Trump in the caucus.
Under such circumstances, why didn’t Nikki Haley focus on South Carolina (where Donald Trump has a 25 point lead in the polls) while ignoring Nevada? Here’s what our sources in Washington say: She knew she didn’t stand a chance. Its strategy therefore remains to establish its legitimacy. She was not going to fall into the trap of participating in the caucus, controlled by Donald Trump’s friends, and therefore chose to run in the primary, while not really campaigning. So, if she had won with a high enough turnout, she could have declared victory and questioned the legitimacy of the caucus, before moving on to the next step, the South Carolina primary (February 24).
The results of the February 6 primary
Although humiliated, Nikki Haley didn’t give up: “Nevada is such a scam… They were supposed to have a primary. Donald Trump rigged it and the head of the GOP, someone who was indicted, decided to caucus.”
In a “closed” primary (only voters registered with a party could vote), she had no chance. She loses by a lot against the ballot entitled “no one among these candidates”chosen by all Donald Trump supporters (a candidate could only run either in the primary or in the caucus): 30.4% against 63.4%, with only 73,000 Republican voters who made the trip.
As for Joe Biden, he won easily with 89.4% of the votes and a participation of more than 100,000 Democratic voters, a few days after his landslide victory in South Carolina (yes, this year, the dates of the Democratic primaries sometimes coincide with those of the Republican primaries, and sometimes not…). The gap between the participation rate between Democrats and Republicans – as outgoing president, Joe Biden should nevertheless arouse less enthusiasm than Donald Trump – is a source of concern for the former president’s campaign team.
Donald Trump wins the February 8 caucus, what next?
Following his victory this Thursday, February 8 in the Nevada caucus (Donald Trump won with 99.1% of the votes and an estimated participation of just over 60,000 voters, less than the primary), the former president has just won twenty-six additional delegates. He will do everything to put pressure on Nikki Haley, so that she withdraws as quickly as possible.
His strategy has not changed: obtain a “de facto” appointment on the day of Super Tuesday (March 5) by winning all the States, including many from the South won over to his cause. For two reasons: to focus on Joe Biden eight months before the November presidential election and to use his multiple legal battles as a campaign argument (his polls rise with each news…