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Why Haley could lose to ‘none of these candidates’ on Nevada primary ballot

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley’s top competition in Nevada’s state-run primary is a “none of these candidates” ballot option.

After tension over the presidential nominating system in the state, Nevada will hold both a primary and Republican Party caucus this week.

Former President Trump, the GOP front-runner, is the only big name on Thursday’s caucus ballot, while Haley is the only top contender in Tuesday’s primary after other candidates, such as South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and former Vice President Mike Pence, dropped out.

Nevada law doesn’t allow for write-in candidates, but it requires voters to be offered an option to pick “none of these candidates.”

That could be a problem for Haley, if Trump supporters decide to cast a protest vote in the primary.

The dueling contests come after the Nevada GOP opted to stick with its long-standing caucus system, despite a new state law calling for a presidential preference primary.

State law doesn’t prohibit registered Republicans from taking part in both the primary and the caucus, but the state party has said only the caucus counts when it comes to allocating delegates to the national party’s convention later this year.

“Your primary vote doesn’t mean anything. It’s your caucus vote,” Trump told supporters in Las Vegas last month. “So in your state, you have both the primary and you have a caucus. Don’t worry about the primary, just do the caucus thing.”

Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo (R) said last month he planned to participate in both events, voting for Trump in the caucuses and selecting the “none” option in the primary.

The state party’s site underscores that “candidates that chose to appear on the state-run primary ballot did so knowing that decision meant they could not earn delegates by appearing on the caucus ballots,” noting Haley by name.

The Nevada GOP also barred candidates who opted for the primary from joining in the caucus contest, meaning Haley and Trump can’t directly compete in the Silver State.

The Nevada confusion prompted Haley’s team to turn its focus to South Carolina, which hosts its GOP primary later this month. The former U.N. ambassador’s campaign on Monday knocked the Nevada setup as “rigged” for Trump.

“In terms of Nevada, we have not spent a dime nor an ounce of energy on Nevada,” Haley campaign manager Betsy Ankney said in a call with reporters when asked how worried the team is that Haley could lose to the “none” option in 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. So Nevada is not and has never been our focus,” Ankney said.

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