Nikki Haley was outvoted in Nevada’s Republican presidential primary by a “None of These Candidates” option on the ballot on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press, an embarrassment in a contest in which she faced no direct competition.
The primary, which awards no delegates, had seemed like a foregone conclusion, as former President Donald J. Trump chose not to take part. On Thursday, he will instead participate in party-run caucuses where all of the state’s 26 delegates will be awarded, a choice by Nevada Republicans that complicated the process and rendered the primary basically irrelevant.
Ms. Haley skipped campaigning in Nevada entirely, choosing instead to spend her time in South Carolina, her home state and where the next primary will take place, after Mr. Trump easily won the first two nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire. Ms. Haley is expected to hold a rally in California, a Super Tuesday state, on Wednesday.
Supporters of Mr. Trump in Nevada, including Gov. Joe Lombardo, had advocated selecting “None of These Candidates” on the primary ballot as a protest vote against Ms. Haley. Republicans can then vote for Mr. Trump in the caucuses two days later, where he is essentially running unopposed after Ms. Haley, his last major rival standing, chose not to compete.
The fact that a “none of the above” option could overpower any enthusiasm from the supporters of Ms. Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, is another blow to her slim chances of winning the nomination over Mr. Trump, who maintains a commanding lead in polls. It also blunts any effort of hers to demonstrate momentum or score at least a symbolic victory.
Critics of the dual primary-caucus system in Nevada, including those in Ms. Haley’s camp, have suggested that the state Republican Party set it up to benefit Mr. Trump, which the party has denied. Michael McDonald, the state party chair, was one of the people indicted in the fake elector scheme to overturn President Biden’s 2020 election victory.
“We have not spent a dime nor an ounce of energy on Nevada,” Betsy Ankney, Ms. Haley’s campaign manager, said on Tuesday. “We made the decision early on that we were not going to pay $55,000 to a Trump entity to participate in a process that was rigged for Trump.”
The confusing system was criticized by Mr. Lombardo, a Republican, who called it “unacceptable for the voters” in an interview with a local news media outlet last year.
Nevada has traditionally held caucuses, but passed a law in 2021 doing away with them and switching to a primary, with mail-in ballots as an option alongside in-person voting. The state’s Republican Party decided to host its own contest — an in-person caucus — and forced candidates to pick one race to participate in.