Nikki Haley wins Nevada Republican primary, NBC News projects

Republican presidential candidate former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley delivers remarks at her primary night rally at the Grappone Conference Center on January 23, 2024 in Concord, New Hampshire.

Tasos Katopodis | Getty Images

Former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley has won the Nevada Republican presidential primary, NBC News projects.

Haley was the only Republican candidate on the ballot Tuesday, but she was not the only choice on the ballot. Nevada voters also have the option of voting for “None of these candidates.” Votes were still being tallied in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.

Former President Donald Trump was not on the ballot, and Haley will not be awarded any of the 26 Republican delegates at stake in the Silver State.

As a result, Haley’s victory is a relatively hollow one, with no real impact on the race for the Republican nomination, which is still dominated by Trump.

Behind the state’s primary-plus-caucus schedule this year is a rift between Nevada’s Republican Party and its Democratic-controlled state legislature.

It began in 2021, when the legislature enacted a new election law requiring the state to hold a primary elections. The move was an attempt to shift away from the caucus format and give more people the chance to participate in the nominating contests.

But the Nevada Republican Party opposed the change, and it opted instead to hold its own caucuses and effectively ignore the primary.

As a result, Republicans are competing in two different presidential contests in Nevada this week — though only the caucus winner will be allotted the delegates to put towards the 1,215 needed to win the nomination.

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Trump is running virtually unopposed in the caucus, because Haley chose to appear on the primary ballot instead. Candidates may only participate in one contest.

Haley campaign manager Betsy Ankney downplayed the importance of this week’s Nevada contests. “We have not spent a dime nor an ounce of energy on Nevada,” she said in a press call Monday morning.

She also criticized the Republican party-run caucus system, which is more favorable to Trump — a candidate with a very loyal base — than a large, statewide primary would likely be. Especially a primary where “None of these candidates” is an option on the ballot.

“We aren’t going to pay $55,000 to a Trump entity to participate in a process that is rigged for Trump,” Ankney said of the state Republican party’s caucus.

“Nevada is not and has never been our focus. I’m truly not sure what the Trump team is up to out there, but they seem pretty spun up about it,” she added.

The former president has long treated his primary opponents as a series of minor distractions on the road to an inevitable rematch with President Joe Biden.

Trump won the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, and polls show him far ahead in South Carolina, which will hold its GOP primary election later this month.

Haley is Trump’s last real Republican challenger left. She has vowed to continue her campaign even if she finishes second in South Carolina, her home state where she once served as governor.

As her electoral path narrows, Haley’s campaign has sharpened its attacks on Trump, arguing he is a weaker choice to face Biden in a general election. The campaign has cut ads criticizing Trump’s age and “unhinged” temperament, while calling him a chicken for refusing to agree to a debate.

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