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Biden wins Nevada's Democratic presidential primary

President Biden speaks during a campaign rally at Pearson Community Center in Las Vegas on Feb. 4.
Saul Loeb
AFP via Getty Images
President Biden speaks during a campaign rally at Pearson Community Center in Las Vegas on Feb. 4.

Democratic and Republican voters in Nevada head to the polls today for the "first-in-the-West" primary election.

Nevada is one of six swing states that will get outsized attention in the general election and is the first swing state to vote early, making it a testing ground for the candidates, even if the races aren't that competitive on paper.

Democrats and Republicans are racing to close the margins in November. In 2020, President Biden won the state by less than 3% of the vote. Now, Democrats on the ground plan to use the results to gauge how to focus their efforts to court voters.

"In general, Las Vegas has been very transient, and so oftentimes we have to establish those connections for the first time," said Fabian Doñate, the Latino Legislative Caucus chair. "Our population is very diverse compared to the rest of the country, and so that's why we're first in the West."

Thirty percent of Nevada's population identifies as Latino. Asian American and Pacific Islanders make up the fastest-growing demographic in the state and it is also very sprawling with union support and rural voters.

How are Nevadans voting?

It's going to be a different process Tuesday than it has in the past due to changes made 2021.

That's when the state implemented several new election laws that implemented all-mail voting, expanded voter registration and moved the presidential contests from party-run caucuses to state-run primaries.

On Tuesday, both Republicans and Democrats will vote in the primary, as is state law.

But Republicans will have another opportunity to vote later this week — because the Nevada Republican Party, who wanted to do a caucus, like they did before, pushed back against the 2021 laws. In order to "protest" the state-run primary, the party will be hosting their own caucus on Thursday. Per the rules, candidates participating in the caucus cannot also have their name on the ballot of the primary.

As a result, former President Donald Trump will only be an option in the Thursday caucus and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley will only be an option to primary voters. Still, no law prohibits registered Republican voters from participating in both contests.

And there is an additional catch: Only the caucus awards delegates, which makes Trump the de facto winner — as the only viable candidate — before any votes are even cast.

The messaging from the state Republican Party runs counter to efforts from the Republican National Committee, which is instead urging Republicans to vote early in 2024.

How are candidates campaigning?

Nevada is already in general election mode.

Trump held a rally in East Las Vegas last week and he had a clear message for primary voters.

"Do the caucus, not the primary. The primary is meaningless," Trump warned.

Trump focused on big-ticket issues like immigration and the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen.

Vice President Kamala Harris held her own rally about five minutes away that same night and paid homage to late Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, a Democrat and former Senate majority leader.

"As the late great Harry Reid always reminded us, if you can win in Nevada you can win anywhere," Harris cheered. "So Harry, President Biden and I are going to prove you right once again."

She focused on some of the administration's policy successes like caps on prescription drugs for seniors and the cancellation of some student debt.

Las Vegas residents heard from Biden yesterday, too. He visited with members of the Culinary Union and took a trip to a boba tea shop in Chinatown.

Trump will be back in the state on Thursday for a caucus results watch party.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.


Ximena Bustillo
Ximena Bustillo is a multi-platform reporter at NPR covering politics out of the White House and Congress on air and in print.
Ashley Lopez
Ashley Lopez is a political correspondent for NPR based in Austin, Texas. She joined NPR in May 2022. Prior to NPR, Lopez spent more than six years as a health care and politics reporter for KUT, Austin's public radio station. Before that, she was a political reporter for NPR Member stations in Florida and Kentucky. Lopez is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and grew up in Miami, Florida.
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