Trump Wins Nevada’s Republican Caucuses
Former President Donald J. Trump glided to victory in Nevada’s Republican caucuses on Thursday, an outcome all but guaranteed because he was the only major candidate on the ballot.
The Associated Press declared Mr. Trump the winner shortly after caucus sites closed in Nevada, giving him his fourth straight triumph in a Republican nominating contest that awards delegates this year.
Even in a campaign in which Mr. Trump’s dominance has sapped the race of much of its drama, his win in Nevada felt particularly preordained. His last significant G.O.P. rival, Nikki Haley, opted months ago to skip the caucuses, which were run by the Nevada Republican Party, and participated instead in a primary election on Tuesday required by state law.
Ms. Haley still won the contest, but its results were effectively immaterial. The state’s Republican Party, which is led by a close Trump ally, decided that it would allocate its presidential delegates based only on the caucuses, and it forced candidates to choose to participate in one contest or the other.
The symbolic success by Mr. Trump on Tuesday was part of a strategy pushed by his supporters in Nevada, including its Republican governor, and offered further indication of the former president’s hold among Republicans in the state.
Competitive or not, Mr. Trump’s victory in the caucuses on Thursday remains a crucial prize that allows him to rack up delegates and claim additional momentum as attention shifts to South Carolina’s primary, his next battle with Ms. Haley, on Feb. 24.
It also capped off a remarkable day on the trail that began with the Supreme Court signaling it would most likely rule in Mr. Trump’s favor regarding a challenge to keep him off the ballot in Colorado.
Later, his campaign seized on a special counsel’s report that raised pointed questions about President Biden’s mental acuity, something Mr. Trump and his advisers have been doing for months. And the former president also won the U.S. Virgin Islands caucuses on Thursday, trouncing Ms. Haley and capturing 73 percent of the vote.
Mr. Trump and his allies have repeatedly urged Ms. Haley to drop out of the race, citing his rising delegate tally and his runaway lead in the polls as evidence that she has no mathematical path to the nomination.
The Trump campaign has argued that Ms. Haley’s insistence on continuing her campaign is draining time and resources that Republicans could better deploy against President Biden, who faces only nominal opposition in the Democratic primary.
On Thursday afternoon, Mr. Trump said at a news conference at Mar-a-Lago, his residence in Florida, that he did not understand why Ms. Haley was still in the race, adding that he believed her candidacy “hurts the party and, in a way, hurts the country.”
He used his speeches to try to drum up grass-roots support and test his messaging, particularly as he tries to chip away at Democrats’ traditional base in the state, particularly its union work force and large share of Hispanic voters.
In January, he railed against Mr. Biden’s handling of the influx of migrants at the border, arguing without providing specifics that the issue had disproportionately hurt Hispanic Americans. And he repeatedly insisted that Black and Hispanic Americans had fared better economically under his administration.
Mr. Trump will most likely need to make gains among those groups, or at least dissuade them from backing Democrats, if he hopes to reverse his losses in the state in 2016 and 2020.
Still, he enjoys broad support among Nevada Republicans, handily winning the state’s caucuses in 2016 and consolidating his strength there since then.
Voters at William E. Orr Middle School in southeast Las Vegas said they were eager to usher Mr. Trump back into the White House and turn the page on Mr. Biden, especially after the special counsel’s report.
“I feel bad for Biden,” said Susan Sevilleja, 53. “I just really don’t think he knows what’s going on.”
The chairman of Nevada’s Republican Party, Michael J. McDonald, is an ardent ally who was one of six state Republicans indicted in the fake elector scheme meant to overturn Mr. Biden’s 2020 election victory.
Mr. McDonald also repeatedly pushed false claims of voter fraud that remain at the heart of Mr. Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him.
Mr. McDonald’s close ties to Mr. Trump and his stewardship of the party’s caucuses contributed in part to accusations by Ms. Haley’s campaign and others that the contest was set up in favor of Mr. Trump.
Last year, the party agreed on new rules for its caucuses that disadvantaged another Trump rival, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, by effectively preventing the super PAC that backed him from participating directly on Caucus Day.
The change came months after Mr. McDonald and a group of state party officials were invited to Mar-a-Lago, where they were treated to an hourslong meal that concluded with ice cream sundaes.
Kellen Browning contributed reporting.