LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Former Vice President Mike Pence became the first major Republican presidential candidate to enter the Nevada primary election, skipping the caucus that will award the state’s GOP delegates.
Pence is the fourth Republican to commit to the primary. Any Republican who participates in the primary will be barred from the caucus by rules set by the Nevada Republican Party. Critics have said those rules tilt the selection process in former President Donald Trump’s favor in Nevada.
Trump, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum have filed to participate in the Republican caucus so far.
Republican candidates who will be in the primary (as of Oct. 12) are Pence, John Castro, Heath Fulkerson and Hirsh V. Singh.
The state Republican Party has scheduled the caucus for Feb. 8, 2024, when 23 delegates will be awarded. Candidates must get 4.5% of the votes to earn a delegate. The party will be releasing results to the public at https://nevadagop.org.
The primary is scheduled on Feb. 6, but Republican participants will not be eligible for delegates.
On the Democratic side, President Joe Biden and seven other candidates have filed for the primary so far. The other Democratic candidates listed by the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office are Brent Foutz, Stephen Alan Leon, Stephen Lyons, Jason Michal Palmer, Armando Perez-Serrato, Donald Picard and Marianne Williamson.
A CNN poll released on Tuesday showed Biden with a 42% approval rating among registered voters in Nevada, but slightly ahead of Trump in a head-to-head matchup. Republican voters are firmly behind Trump, who had 65% of the support, ahead of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (13%) and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley (6%). Pence had only 3% of the vote in Nevada.
8 News Now Politics Now anchor John Langeler interviewed Pence earlier this month:
By skipping the caucus, Pence gives up a chance to try to win Nevada’s relatively small number of delegates. Instead, a primary win could offer an opportunity to prove electability before crucial contests in South Carolina and a slate of primaries on Super Tuesday.
Nevada holds a prominent place early in the 2024 nominating contests for the GOP next year. But some presidential campaigns and Nevada Republicans have warned that the state’s impact may be muddled after the local Republican Party opted to run its own caucuses two days after the state-run primary.
In addition to forbidding candidates from participating in both the caucuses and primary, the state GOP also restricted super PACs from trying to bolster support for candidates in the caucuses. That restriction could be detrimental to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is heavily dependent on the Never Back Down super PAC for organizing and advertising.
Nevada isn’t the only state to have adopted rules seen as favoring Trump, whose team has worked for years to shape the system by which state Republican parties award delegates to presidential candidates.
Michigan and California have also passed rules this year that are seen to widely benefit Trump.
The former president has strong allies in top roles at the Nevada GOP, including Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald and Republican National Committee member Jim DeGraffenreid. Both served as fake presidential electors in 2020 as part of a scheme in Nevada and other battleground states to try to overturn Trump’s election loss. The party’s executive director, Alida Benson, left that job this summer to run Trump’s campaign in the state.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.