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A preview of the unusual primary and caucus system being implemented by Nevada


Another week, another primary. This time, it is Nevada's turn. Democrats and Republicans will both host their primaries tomorrow, but GOP voters in the state will have another opportunity to vote for their preferred candidate because there is a Republican caucus later this week. That sounds complicated, so NPR's Ximena Bustillo spent last week in the state so she can tell us more about this unusual setup. Good morning, Ximena.


MARTIN: OK. So some states are doing Democratic and Republican primaries on different days, but Nevada is different. What is going on there?

BUSTILLO: Well, in 2021, the state implemented several new election laws, like creating all-mail voting, expanding voter registration and moving the state-run presidential contest to a primary. But on Tuesday, both Republicans and Democrats will host that primary, as is state law. But the Nevada Republican Party didn't like that plan, and they wanted to do a caucus like they did before, which also means no early voting. So that'll happen later this week, on Thursday evening. Republican voters can vote in their Republican primary or in the Republican caucus, or both. Technically, no law prohibits that. And adding to the confusion, former President Trump does not appear on the primary ballot, and caucusgoers can't choose Nikki Haley on Thursday.

MARTIN: OK. So these primaries don't sound very competitive. I mean, are the candidates paying it attention?

BUSTILLO: So they are. It does largely feel like Nevada's already in general election mode. Trump held a rally in East Las Vegas last week, and he had a clear message for primary voters.


DONALD TRUMP: Do the caucus, not the primary - the primary is meaningless.

BUSTILLO: Vice President Kamala Harris held her own rally about five minutes away that same night.


KAMALA HARRIS: The dear late great Harry Reid always reminded us, if you can win in Nevada, you can win anywhere.


HARRIS: And so, Harry, President Biden, I'm going to prove you right once again.

BUSTILLO: Vegas residents will also hear from President Biden himself tonight, and Trump will be back in town on Thursday for a caucus result watch party. Though, remember, he's already expected to win because he is the only viable candidate in the caucus.

MARTIN: So, Ximena, what do you think the results are going to tell us?

BUSTILLO: Well, Democrats on the ground told me that they will be using these primary results to gauge how to focus their efforts moving towards the November election. Here's Fabian Donate, the Latino Legislative Caucus chair.

FABIAN DONATE: In general, Las Vegas has been very transient. And so oftentimes, we have to establish those connections for the first time. Our population is very diverse compared to the rest of the country, and so that's why we're first in the West.

BUSTILLO: Thirty percent of Nevada's population identifies as Latino. Both Trump and Harris' rallies were in a neighborhood, East Las Vegas, known for being predominantly Hispanic. Asian American and Pacific Islanders make up the fastest-growing demographic in the state, and it's also a very sprawling state with union support and rural voters.

Republicans are also looking to run up these margins because this is a big state for 2024. Biden won the last election by less than 3% of the vote here. Nevada is one of six swing states that will get outsized attention in the general election, and it's the first one to vote early. So its results are a testing ground for these candidates, even if they're not competitive on paper.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Ximena Bustillo. Ximena, thanks for explaining all this to us.

BUSTILLO: Thank you.


NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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.