LAS VEGAS--Nikki Haley's presidential campaign on Wednesday brushed off her mortifying defeat in Nevada's primary and said the former United Nations ambassador would press ahead with her long-shot challenge to former U.S. President Donald Trump.
Haley lost Nevada's Republican primary handily on Tuesday even though she was the only candidate listed on the ballot. She secured just 31% in the contest, well behind the 63% of the ballots cast for "none of these candidates," according to Nevada election officials. No delegates were at stake in the primary, making Haley's defeat more symbolic than meaningful. Trump appears poised to capture all of Nevada's 26 delegates when the state party holds a separate caucus proceeding on Thursday, which will further diminish Haley's long-term prospects as a candidate. The Trump campaign made no effort to get people out to vote in the primary, according to Nevada party insiders. Trump at a Jan. 27 rally in Las Vegas told the crowd not to show up for it, but instead focus on the caucuses. Despite that, almost 44,000 people cast a ballot in the primary for "none" of the candidates, more than double the voters who came out for Haley. A spokesperson for Haley, Olivia Perez-Cubas, downplayed Haley's loss, arguing that the process favored Trump. "Even Donald Trump knows that when you play penny slots, the house wins. We didn't bother to play a game rigged for Trump," Perez-Cubas said. "We're full steam ahead in South Carolina and beyond." Haley has focused on winning her home state of South Carolina, where she served for six years as governor. Polls, however, have shown Trump with a commanding lead ahead of the Feb. 24 primary there. Haley's team had spent considerable energy in recent days trying to manage expectations in Nevada, where polls had also consistently shown her trailing Trump by wide margins, even by the standards of a modern Republican Party dominated by the former president. "We have not spent a dime nor an ounce of energy on Nevada," Haley's campaign manager, Betsy Ankney, told reporters on Monday. Even so, a person close to Haley, who asked to remain anonymous in order to speak freely, on Wednesday described the results in Nevada as "an embarrassing situation." Tactically, Haley might have been better off choosing not to appear on the ballot at all in order to avoid Tuesday's result.