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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.

Updated February 6, 2024 at 11:46 PM ET

President Biden has won the Nevada Democratic primary on Tuesday, according to a race call by the Associated Press.

As the incumbent president, Biden had been widely expected to carry the primary. Author Marianne Williamson was also on the ballot.

In 2020, Biden won Nevada in the general election by just under 3%, making it a much-watched swing state. He lost in the primary to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

Though Nevada's was an uncompetitive primary, Democrats 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.

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.

Biden spoke with union workers on Monday

Ahead of primary day, Biden came to Las Vegas to meet with union workers before visiting a tea shop in the city's Chinatown. Biden met with Culinary Union workers in an employee cafeteria at the Vdara Hotel in Las Vegas. The workers have just finalized contract negotiations with MGM Resorts management.

"I came to say thank you. Not just to say thank you for the support that you've given me last time out but to thank you for having the faith in the union," Biden said.

President Biden speaks with members of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 following their successful contract negotiations at the Vdara Hotel in Las Vegas on Monday.
Saul Loeb / AFP via Getty Images
/
AFP via Getty Images
President Biden speaks with members of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 following their successful contract negotiations at the Vdara Hotel in Las Vegas on Monday.

The Culinary and Bartenders Unions represent 60,000 workers across the state and have emerged as a political force there, making them an important voting bloc. Biden, who has often self proclaimed to be the most "pro-labor" president, previously received support from the Culinary Union.

After the race call on Tuesday, Biden again thanked these voters.

"Nevada Democrats represent the backbone of our nation: the union workers who built the middle class, immigrants who came here in search of opportunity, and families of all stripes who deserve dignity, personal freedom, and a fair shot at the American dream," he said in a statement. "Tonight they showed us all: we still believe in an America where we treat everybody with honesty, decency, dignity, and respect."

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Despite skipping the non-sanctioned New Hampshire primary, Biden won that race after voters wrote in his name — though the results won't count toward his official nomination at the party's convention in August. Over the weekend, Biden also won the South Carolina primary in what was the first official nominating event for Democrats— a schedule switch-up from elections past. The Democratic Party hoped having South Carolina go first would signal the importance of Black voters to their success.

How did Nevadans vote?

It's a different process than it has been 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 voted 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 dual GOP contests wound up confusing some voters Tuesday.

"I came for Trump, period. He wasn't up there. I'm here today in the rain, and I'm disappointed," Pat Rapaccuiolo told NPR at a polling site in the Spring Valley neighborhood of Las Vegas.

Rapaccuiolo said she ended up voting for "none of these candidates," which is an option for primary voters in Nevada — because she said she was expecting to see Trump on the ballot. She said she's going to vote in the caucus on Thursday.

This "none of these candidates" option wound up receiving the highest percentage of votes in Tuesday's GOP primary — beating Haley, according to a race call by the Associated Press.

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 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.

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.