By Tim Reid
(Reuters) – Donald Trump is set to win all of Nevada’s delegates in the state’s Republican presidential nominating caucuses on Thursday as he moves closer to becoming his party’s White House standard-bearer and a likely general election rematch with U.S. President Joe Biden in November.
Former President Trump, the Republican frontrunner in his party’s nominating race, is the only major candidate competing in Thursday’s Nevada caucuses and is almost assured of winning the state’s 26 delegates to the party’s nominating convention in July.
The caucuses, organized by the Trump-friendly Nevada Republican Party, come two days after a state-run primary election, which saw a humiliating defeat for Nikki Haley, Trump’s last remaining rival for the Republican presidential nomination.
Despite being the only major candidate on Tuesday’s Republican primary ballot, Haley was still roundly defeated after tens of thousands of Trump supporters turned out to mark their ballots with “none of these candidates,” an option which garnered 63% of the vote to Haley’s 30%.
Trump is close to winning the Republican nomination after back-to-back wins in Iowa and New Hampshire last month.
Haley, a former U.N. ambassador, is refusing to quit the nominating race, a move which has infuriated Trump. Haley is vowing to stay in the race and a potential last stand in her home state of South Carolina, which holds a primary election on Feb. 24.
Haley has no clear path to the nomination and trails Trump badly in South Carolina, where she was governor for six years, according to opinion polls.
The competing Republican ballots in Nevada this week were the result of a conflict between the state Republican Party – run by Trump allies – and a 2021 state law that mandates a primary must be held.
Presidential nominating caucuses are run by state political parties, not the state, and the Nevada Republican Party decided to stick with a caucus on Thursday. It was viewed as more helpful to Trump because of his superior ground game in the Western state.
Last year, Haley chose to compete in Tuesday’s primary. Trump went for the caucus. The state party ruled that only candidates contesting Thursday’s caucus could compete for delegates.
Despite Tuesday’s results in Nevada having little impact on the nominating contests, the state will be a hotly contested battleground because its population can swing to either party and play a significant role in November’s presidential election.
In 2020, Biden beat Trump in Nevada by 2.4 percentage points. Opinion polls show a likely rematch between Biden and Trump in the state will be close.
About 30% of Nevada’s population is self-described as Latino or Hispanic on the U.S. Census, and Republicans are making some inroads with these voters nationwide.
Nevada also has many potential swing voters: There are 768,000 registered as “nonpartisan,” more than those registered as either Democrat or Republican, according to the latest state figures.
(Reporting by Tim Reid; editing by Ross Colvin and Jonathan Oatis)