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Unrivaled, Trump easily sweeps Nevada Republican caucuses

The former president glided to victory at internal elections that were intended to serve as a role model of good electoral organization but were instead defined by scenes of chaos

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a caucus night rally in Las Vegas, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024.Mark J. Terrill (AP)

-”Three damn hours just to vote, three!…”

The screaming man threw open the cafeteria doors at Green Valley High School in Henderson, Nevada. On the other side there were scenes of confusion: lines leading nowhere, people who couldn’t find voting stations, people giving away ballots as if they were flyers. This is what the elections organized by Donald Trump’s supporters look like.

-“Damn, I thought the Republicans knew how to organize elections,” said a man who couldn't find anyone to give him information about his census registration.

Trump swept the Nevada caucuses this Thursday, securing the state’s 26 delegates (more than he obtained in Iowa or New Hampshire). The Associated Press declared the former president’s victory when hundreds of his supporters were still waiting in long lines to vote. The controversial politician was competing by himself in an internal process in which three names appeared on the ballot. His own, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who threw in the towel last month, and Ryan Binkley, a pastor from Texas who had the daring to confront Trump in one of his most solid bastions in the West.

“We’re leading everybody,” said Trump later in a victory speech at Treasure Island Casino in Las Vegas. “Is there any way we can call the election for next Tuesday? That’s all I want.”

“Let’s face it, all these people are going to vote for Trump,” says Linda Guglia. This 45-year-old real estate broker, a first-generation American with Austrian and Irish roots, voted for Joe Biden in 2020. “It was one of the biggest mistakes of my life,” confesses Guglia, who intends to correct the record in November. She said Democrats are obsessed with abortion, but what voters like her really worry about are the economy and immigration.

At the voting center Linda met up with Gareth, whom she knows from the Christian church she attends. The man wore a white cap that said “Team Trump Captain” in big gold letters. On his chest he proudly wore a stamp that said “Caucus for Trump on February 8.”

These representatives of the Trump campaign were acting as election observers on Thursday. Some of them gave ballots to the voters and took them to the table where they had to place the ballot in a tiny cardboard box. “It’s been confusing because we didn’t expect such a high turnout, but the point of this is to have an election with integrity,” said Gareth.

Hundreds of Trump supporters waiting to cast their vote at Green Valley High in Henderson, Nevada.
Hundreds of Trump supporters waiting to cast their vote at Green Valley High in Henderson, Nevada.Luis Pablo Beauregard

The confusing scenes were not exclusive to the high school. South of there, at the exclusive Dragonridge private club, the scene was similar. Trump supporters waited patiently for up to two hours to get to their tables to cast their votes, which itself took less than 15 seconds. The press was expelled by the owner of the establishment, the businessman Rich MacDonald, a millionaire developer who is also the treasurer of the Republican Party in Nevada.

The shadow of suspicion that Trump has cast over election institutions and officials prompted the Nevada Republican Party to hold a caucus in parallel to the primary, which took place on Tuesday and was organized by state officials. The event on Thursday highlighted the voting restrictions that party members want to impose in the states. Voting by mail has been prohibited, except for a handful of military personnel who will be able to cast absentee ballots. Only those who registered as Republicans before January 9 were able to participate.

The ballots are made of paper and the counting process should be done, in theory, at the precincts to avoid moving the ballots to another location. The caucus was intended to bring transparency to a process that Nikki Haley’s own campaign considers fraudulent. “We have not spent a dime nor an ounce of energy on Nevada. 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,” Betsy Ankney, Haley’s campaign manager, said on Monday.

Haley suffered an embarrassing defeat in Tuesday’s primary, coming in second place with 22,000 votes, behind “none of the above candidates” (47,000 votes). Fully 60% of ballots were marked with this option, compared to 33% who opted for Haley. Another primary is scheduled for February 24 in South Carolina, her home state.

Trump’s Nevada supporters spent their time in the long lines taunting Haley. “This is not New Hampshire!” joked a man in one of the precincts.

“She doesn’t realize how ridiculous she is. Her brain at this point is as good as Biden’s. “She hasn’t realized that the competition is over,” said Mike Shamamian, a 77-year-old retiree who was reading a book about Ava Gardner. The man claims he voted for the Democratic Party from 1968 to 2016, when he supported and even helped raise money for Bernie Sanders. Now he is sure that Donald Trump will be president again. “Democrats are only interested in money. They hate Trump because he already has money, but he only wants to do good things.”

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