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US: Biden wins Nevada primary, Nikki Haley suffers embarrassing defeat to 'none of these candidates'

Nikki Haley, who is already lagging behind Trump in polls, became the first candidate to lose “none of these candidates” since it was introduced in 1975. Despite downplaying the loss, the results are a major setback to Haley's hopes of trouncing Trump for the Republican presidential nomination.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Las Vegas Published on: February 07, 2024 22:18 IST
US, Nevada primary, Joe Biden, Nikki Haley
Image Source : AP (FILE) US President Joe Biden and Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley.

Nevada: US President Joe Biden on Tuesday secured an easy victory against author Marianne Williamson and a handful of less-known challengers in the Nevada presidential primary, putting him one step closer to a 2020 rematch against former President Donald Trump. This comes days after Biden won his first presidential primary in South Carolina, winning 96.2% of the votes against Williamson.

Dean Phillips, the Minnesota Democrat running a long-shot primary challenge against Biden, entered the race too late to get on the ballot in Nevada, according to NBC News. Biden won 89 per cent of the vote and is on track to win the vast majority of the vote, with Williamson finishing far behind him, just as she did in the two previous contests, in New Hampshire and South Carolina.

"I want to thank the voters of Nevada for sending me and Kamala Harris to the White House four years ago, and for setting us one step further on that same path again tonight. We must organize, mobilize, and vote. Because one day, when we look back, we’ll be able to say, when American democracy was a risk, we saved it — together," Biden said in a statement.

This is the first year Nevada Democrats held a primary instead of caucuses, in line with new Democratic National Committee rules, which also revamped the presidential nominating calendar for 2024. The Democrats will next hold a primary in Michigan, a critical election swing state, on February 27. Biden stayed out of the ballot in New Hampshire because the primary violated party rules, but he still easily won the unsanctioned January 23 contest as a write-in candidate.

Nikki Haley suffers embarrassing defeat

Meanwhile, in the Republican camp, Indian-origin presidential candidate Nikki Haley suffered a blowout defeat as GOP voters resoundingly picked the “none of these candidates” option on the ballot, a repudiation of the former UN ambassador who is the last remaining rival to Trump. The forest President did not compete in the primary, which doesn’t award any delegates needed to win the GOP nomination.

Haley lost Nevada's Republican primary handily on Tuesday even though she was the only candidate listed on the ballot, further setting back her chances of defeating Trump for the Republican presidential nomination. She secured just 31 per cent in the contest, well behind the 63 per cent of the ballots cast for "none of these candidates," according to Nevada election officials.

Trump appears poised to capture all of Nevada's 26 delegates when the state party holds a separate caucus proceeding on Thursday, which will further diminish Haley's long-term prospects as a candidate. Haley has focused on winning her home state of South Carolina, where she served for six years as governor, despite lagging behind Trump by a significant margin.

Nevada's dueling presidential caucuses and primaries this week are creating confusion among voters, and those who cast ballots in the first contest Tuesday had the option of supporting “none of these candidates". Haley became the first presidential candidate from either party to lose a race to “none of these candidates” since that option was introduced in Nevada in 1975.

“A bad night for Nikki Haley. Losing by almost 30 points in Nevada to ‘None of These Candidates.’ Watch, she’ll soon claim Victory!” Trump posted on Truth Social after Haley's defeat in the primary. However, Haley's spokesperson downplayed her Nevada loss, arguing that the process favored Trump.

“Even Donald Trump knows that when you play penny slots the house wins,” spokeswoman Olivia Perez-Cubas said. “We didn’t bother to play a game rigged for Trump. We’re full steam ahead in South Carolina and beyond”.

Why did people vote against Haley?

The Trump campaign told supporters only to worry about Thursday, but many of his allies in state and local GOP committees made it known that they could still show support for Trump by registering their opposition to Haley, who did not campaign in Nevada, saying Trump’s allies had rigged the rules in his favour. “At the end of the day, the disrespect that Nikki Haley showed us, she just got reciprocated,” Nevada GOP Chairman Michael McDonald said on Tuesday night.

McDonald is fiercely loyal to Trump and is one of six so-called “fake electors” indicted by a Nevada grand jury for submitting certificates to Congress falsely declaring him the winner of the 2020 presidential election in the state. Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo, a Republican, had also announced beforehand that he would vote for “none of these candidates” on Tuesday.

Haley's team had spent considerable energy in recent days trying to manage expectations in Nevada, where opinion polls had consistently shown her trailing Trump by wide margins, even by the standards of a modern Republican Party dominated by the former president. "We have not spent a dime nor an ounce of energy on Nevada," said Haley's campaign manager Betsey Ankney.

Republican primary voters and lawmakers have embraced Trump even as his legal troubles and bills grow. He faces multiple civil and criminal cases, including federal and state criminal charges connected to his efforts to reverse his 2020 election loss, and has denied any wrongdoing in what he has called a political witch hunt to deny him the White House.

(with inputs from agencies)

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