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Trump is expected to win all of Nevada's Republican delegates at caucus

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Nevada votes today - again. The state held a presidential primary on Tuesday, which was meaningless on the Republican side because Nevada's delegates to the Republican convention are chosen instead by caucuses - face-to-face voting by the party faithful. This evening, Donald Trump is expected to sweep that format. In fact, his chief rival, Nikki Haley, called the process rigged. So why is it this way? NPR's Ashley Lopez is in Las Vegas. Hey there, Ashley.

ASHLEY LOPEZ, BYLINE: Hey, there.

INSKEEP: OK, how did Nevada Republicans come to choose this process?

LOPEZ: Well, this was a decision made by the Nevada Republican Party, right? So political parties are private organizations, right? So they mostly get to decide how they're going to divvy up their delegates. And the Nevada GOP didn't like some recent changes to Nevada's election laws. So, you know, mostly they had a problem with expanded mail-in voting. And so they decided that they would hold a caucus election, you know, on their own, and they would have more control of the voting rules. This is how they came to this.

INSKEEP: Oh, this is really interesting because the Republican Party writ large has been trying to encourage mail-in voting again, but Donald Trump has raised suspicions about it. So Nevada Republicans go with his suspicions, go for this face-to-face voting. And it seems they have hardly more than one candidate to vote for.

LOPEZ: Yeah, and that's because the Nevada Republican Party set up a rule - right? - that if any candidate runs in that state-run primary, which happened Tuesday, they would be disqualified from running in the caucus election today. And that's important because acquiring delegates is how a candidate wins the nomination, right? It's the only part of this that really matters. But because some of Trump's former and current challengers filed to run in the primary, they were automatically disqualified to run in the caucus. And so Trump is one of the last men standing there.

INSKEEP: Why didn't Haley or the others just run in the caucus then?

LOPEZ: I mean, I think there was an effort early on among that larger field of GOP presidential candidates that we had, you know, just a few months ago to cooperate with the state-run primary, right? And a lot of that was rooted in the fact that Donald Trump's campaign had a lot of influence over the state Republican Party in Nevada. In fact, in December, party leader Michael McDonald told attendees of a Trump rally in Reno that they should ignore the primary altogether and just go caucus for Trump.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MICHAEL MCDONALD: You don't need February 6. That's for the Democrats. February 8 - you come out to your location. You walk in with your neighbors. You sit with your neighbors and tell them how great Donald Trump is. And then you cast your ballot for Donald J. Trump.

LOPEZ: Yeah. And I just want to take a moment to point out how weird this is. Usually, state party leaders do not weigh in on primary elections like this because primaries are intraparty - right? - like, they're all on the same team. So out of the gate, this was a really strange situation in Nevada for the other candidates running. And I should also say that the man we just heard from, Michael McDonald, has been in some legal trouble for his involvement in the Trump campaign's fake elector scheme in 2020, just to give you a sense of how closely aligned the Nevada party is to Donald Trump.

INSKEEP: Okay, so, not much suspense tonight, but what will happen?

LOPEZ: Yeah, I mean, I'm not expecting this to be anything short of an overwhelming win for Trump. The only other candidate on the ballot will be this long-shot candidate, Ryan Binkley, who's a businessman from Texas. But, you know, I'm going to be curious to see how many voters actually show up to elections. For one, caucuses are notorious for having lower voter participation. And I think the fact that there was all this confusion created by having both a primary and a caucus this week could also affect turnout, but we'll see.

INSKEEP: NPR's Ashley Lopez is in Las Vegas. Ashley, enjoy.

LOPEZ: Yeah, I will. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Ashley Lopez
Ashley Lopez is a political correspondent for NPR based in Austin, Texas. She joined NPR in May 2022. Prior to NPR, Lopez spent more than six years as a health care and politics reporter for KUT, Austin's public radio station. Before that, she was a political reporter for NPR Member stations in Florida and Kentucky. Lopez is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and grew up in Miami, Florida.