5 takeaways from the Nevada, Virgin Islands caucuses

Former President Trump scored wins in Nevada and the U.S. Virgin Islands this week, dealing simultaneous blows to fellow Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley as the race heads toward her home state of South Carolina later this month.

Appearing separately in dueling Silver State contests, Trump won the party-run caucus on Thursday, two days after Haley lost the state-run primary to a “none of these candidates” option. 

And in the Virgin Islands, Trump notched a win in the caucus some thought could be within Haley’s reach. 

As focus now turns to South Carolina’s Feb. 24 Republican primary, here are the key takeaways from the last few days of the presidential nominating process:

Trump’s strength is underscored 

Back-to-back wins in the Virgin Islands and Nevada’s caucus, coupled with Haley’s embarrassing loss in Nevada’s primary, underscored Trump’s dominance in the GOP race that’s now down to a one-on-one matchup with him and Haley. 

“This has been a very Big Day for your Favorite President, the Republican Party, and Democracy!” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform as the results came in.

The former president was projected to win all four of the Virgin Islands’ delegates, plus the 26 delegates on the table in the Silver State’s caucus. He’ll need to reach 1,215 to secure the Republican nod.

After tension over the state-run primary, the Nevada GOP said it would use only the caucus results to allocate delegates to the party’s national convention later this year — making Haley, who had opted for the primary, ineligible to snag any delegates. 

Haley’s team knocked the caucus as “rigged” and skipped campaigning in the state, homing in on South Carolina and pointing toward Super Tuesday states that vote in March. 

But even as Haley’s campaign sees strong fundraising numbers and signals determination to move forward, Trump’s early-state victories and considerable lead in the polls have amplified questions about whether Haley has a viable path to the nomination. 

This week of wins largely puts to rest any notion that the former president’s bid is vulnerable heading into the first-in-the-South primary in the Palmetto State later this month. 

There, he leads Haley by 32 points, according to polling averages from Decision Desk HQ/The Hill — and strategists forecast Haley could be in for an embarrassing finish in her home state if she doesn’t significantly close that gap in the coming weeks. 

Haley campaign on life support

Haley suffered an embarrassing defeat in Nevada’s primary, where she appeared as the only active top candidate. Her bid was outvoted by a ballot option for “none of these candidates,” which was projected to score more than double Haley’s support. 

Strategists say the loss is a warning sign of Trump’s enduring strength, though Haley’s team has shrugged it off.

“We didn’t bother to play a game rigged for Trump. We’re full steam ahead in South Carolina and beyond,” Haley spokesperson Olivia Perez-Cubas told The Hill after the primary results came in. 

Her campaign manager said they’d not “spent a dime nor an ounce of energy” on the Silver State, where primary candidates couldn’t earn any delegates.

On Thursday, Trump extended his winning streak over Haley with the Virgin Islands contest, preventing her from snagging a positive headline before the Palmetto State primary, which many see as Haley’s last stand to stay competitive and get the momentum she needs to move into the busy primary and caucus schedule in March. 

Haley’s campaign did not immediately return a request for comment on the Thursday night results. 

“Don’t you, at some point, Ambassador, Governor, don’t you at some point have to win something?” Fox News’s Sean Hannity asked Haley in an interview on Thursday.

“We moved 25 points in New Hampshire in those last three weeks. We’re going to move in South Carolina. We don’t do coronations, Sean. You have got three states that have happened,” Haley said.

Biden troubles overshadow Nevada victory

Biden won the Democratic primary in Nevada on Tuesday, but few people seemed to notice.

Later in the week, whatever momentum he had was quickly overshadowed by the Thursday release of a 388-page report that found he “willfully” retained classified documents.  

The report by special counsel Rober Hur follows a year-long investigation into how classified documents from Biden’s time as vice president wound up at an old office space and at his Wilmington, Del., home. 

The assessment stopped short of recommending any charges against Biden, but also offered a critique of the president’s memory and recall, stoking concerns about the incumbent’s age. 

“We have also considered that, at trial, Mr. Biden would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview of him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory,” Hur wrote.

Biden defended himself in a tense press conference as results began to roll in for the Nevada GOP caucus. 

“My memory’s fine. My memory’s — take a look at what I’ve done since I became president… how did that happen? I guess I just forgot what was going on,” he said with sarcasm.

But his presidential competitors jumped on Hur’s comments as campaign fodder. The pro-Trump super PAC Make America Great Again Inc. weighed in, and Haley used them to back up her critique of both sides that “the party that gets rid of their 80-year-old candidate is going to be the party that wins.”

Trump set to meet turnout expectations in Nevada

With 63 percent reporting, roughly 37,000 had turned out for Trump in the GOP caucus, according to Decision Desk HQ.

That figure dwarfs the 23,000 that showed up for Haley in the primary, when the “none of these candidates” option won with around 48,000 votes. 

The latest numbers put Trump on track to outpace the “none” option, too. Projections from the Associated Press showed Trump even higher in the caucus, with nearly 60,000.

Nevada’s Lieutenant Gov. Stavros Anthony said on X that he saw “massive turnout” in the caucus, and Trump claimed record numbers in remarks after the race was called. The state party hasn’t yet confirmed that claim.

On the other side of the aisle, roughly 115,000 voters showed up for Biden in the primary.

Biden-Trump rematch all but certain

Whatever doubts remaining that the 2024 presidential race was likely to be a Trump-Biden rematch were probably dispelled this week.

The current and former presidents have long been the clear frontrunners of their respective parties, though some wondered whether Republicans would show a strong enough appetite for a Trump alternative. 

But with Trump far ahead of Haley in both South Carolina and national polling, observers are skeptical that the former U.N. ambassador can surge to overtake him. And with Biden soundly outpacing his Democratic challengers, it looks like the general election is likely to be a re-run of their 2020 matchup. 

Biden’s campaign moved swiftly after New Hampshire to say Trump had “all but locked up the GOP nomination,” pitching the race as a one-on-one between the current and former presidents. On Thursday, Biden’s team bashed Trump over Nevada and pointed toward the general. 

“He and his MAGA minions may be able to rig a caucus for him now, but Trump won’t be able to escape becoming a three-time loser in Nevada this November when voters once again reject his MAGA extremism,” said DNC Rapid Response Director Alex Floyd.

At the same time, Trump is campaigning amid ongoing legal battles that threaten to derail his bid. He’s facing 91 criminal charges across four state and federal criminal indictments, as well as multiple lawsuits, which could conflict with some key contests in the 2024 calendar. 

That’s led some to speculate that Haley is sticking with her bid in case Trump’s legal battles pull him away from the campaign trail. 

Biden, too, is campaigning amid ongoing concerns about his age and health. At 81, Biden would be 86 by the end of a second term. Trump is just a few years his junior, at 77.  

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