LOS ANGELES – Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley has her eyes on the next major contest in the GOP nominating calendar – the primary later this month in her home state of South Carolina, as well as on Super Tuesday in early March.
And Haley is downplaying this week’s primary and caucus in Nevada, saying they weren’t “anything we were looking at” and charging that the caucus is “rigged” for former President Donald Trump.
Haley made her comments Wednesday, one day after she lost by a more than two-to-one margin to the “none of these candidates” option in Nevada’s state-run GOP presidential primary. The contest was open only to registered Republican voters.
Trump, the commanding front-runner for the Republican presidential nominationas he bids a third straight time for the White House, was not on Tuesday’s ballot. And voters casting ballots in the state-run Republican nominating contest couldn’t write in Trump’s name, but they could vote for a “none of these candidates” option.
Trump supporters Fox News spoke with at polling stations on primary day in Las Vegas said they were casting a ballot for “none of these candidates.”
While her name was on the ballot, the former two-term South Carolina governor who later served as U.N. ambassador in the Trump administration ignored the Nevada primary.
Haley didn’t campaign in Nevada ahead of the primary and hasn’t been in the state since speaking in late October at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual leadership conference.
“In terms of Nevada, we have not spent a dime nor an ounce of energy on Nevada,” Haley campaign manager Betsy Ankney told reporters on Monday. “So Nevada is not and has never been our focus.”
Haley, speaking Wednesday with FOX 11 Los Angeles during a stop in southern California, emphasized that “we knew months ago that we weren’t going to spend a day or a dollar in Nevada, because it wasn’t worth it. And so we didn’t even count Nevada. That wasn’t anything we were looking at.”
Hours earlier, as the votes were being counted on Tuesday night, the former president took to his Truth Social network to take aim at Haley.
“A bad night for Nikki Haley. Losing by almost 30 points in Nevada to “None of These Candidates.” Watch, she’ll soon claim Victory!” he argued.
And Trump campaign senior adviser Chris LaCivita charged: “More embarrassment coming in South Carolina …the @NikkiHaley Delusional Tour continues,’ LaCivita claimed in a social media post.
While Trump wasn’t on the primary ballot, his name will be listed on Thursday in a presidential caucus being run by the Nevada GOP.
The confusion over having two competing contests dates to 2021, when Democrats, who at the time controlled both Nevada’s governor’s office and the legislature, passed a law changing the presidential nominating contest from long-held caucuses to a state-run primary.
The Nevada GOP objected, but last year their legal bid to stop the primary from going forward was rejected. In a twist, the judge in the case allowed the state Republicans to hold their own caucuses, where all 26 delegates will be up for grabs.
The state GOP ruled that candidates who put their name on the state-run primary ballot could not take part in the caucuses.
Haley and some of the other now-departed Republican presidential candidates viewed the Nevada GOP as too loyal to Trump and decided to skip a caucus they believed was tipped in favor of the former president.
Nevada GOP chair Michael McDonald and both of the state’s members of the Republican National Committee are supporting Trump.
“We made the decision early on that we were not going to pay $55,000 to a Trump entity that, you know, to participate in a process that was rigged for Trump,” Ankney argued on Monday.
And Haley on Wednesday charged that “Nevada – it’s such a scam. They were supposed to have a primary. Trump rigged it so the GOP chairman – who’s been indicted – would go and create a caucus.”
“We knew that it was rigged from the start,” Haley argued “Our focus is on South Carolina, Michigan, Super Tuesday.”
Michigan holds its primary on Tuesday Feb. 27, three days after the South Carolina Republican primary. Fifteen states, including the behemoths of California and Texas, hold contests a week later, on Super Tuesday.
Haley’s two campaign stops on Wednesday in California were her first to date in any of the Super Tuesday states. And the swing to the Golden State appears in part to be a marker for Haley as she pushes back against calls by some Republicans to drop out of the race and give up her uphill climb for the nomination.
The trip also included a series of fundraisers. And as Fox News Digital first reported on Wednesday, Haley hauled in $1.7 million in fundraising during her two days in California.