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Confusion Reigns as South Carolina and Nevada Vote for President

The Palmetto and Silver States feature a chaotic mashup of Republicans and Democrats, Caucuses and Primaries.

Go ahead and try to figure out what’s going on in the states of South Carolina and Nevada. Incumbent Joe Biden is set to score a big victory today against minimal opposition in the new first-in-the-nation-Democratic Party primary in South Carolina, granted to the Palmetto State this year as a reward for reviving Biden’s flagging campaign in 2020. Biden is also expected to win big in the Nevada primary in three days, on Tuesday, February 6.

It’s on the Republican side where confusion is the order of the day. The GOP will not hold its South Carolina primary until February 24. But Donald Trump will compete in the Nevada Republican caucuses, sponsored by the state GOP, on the same date as the state’s Democratic primary, February 6. But his rival, Nikki Haley, will not. Conversely, Trump has not entered the GOP primary set for two days later, Thursday, February 8, sanctioned by the state government, while his rival Nikki Haley will be the only recognizable candidate on the ballot that day. Trump will undoubtedly win the caucuses and secure all 26 Nevada delegates to July’s Republican convention. Haley will win the primary beauty contest by default, though without winning a single delegate. Got it? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

GettyImages-1971138567 voting

(Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

The voters of Nevada apparently don’t get it either. Officials with both the state and the GOP report receiving thousands of calls from voters over the last few weeks, complaining that they were not properly informed that Trump is on the ballot only in the caucus, and not in the primary.

Is this any way to pick a presidential nominee?

South Carolina and Nevada Compete for Attention

This jury-rigged system designed to protect Republican autonomy is a result of the Silver State legislature’s decision to dump the caucus system it had long employed in favor of primaries for both parties. But the state GOP stridently opposed the plan and stood firm on holding its usual caucus. And then it forced candidates to choose to compete in either the primary or the caucus, but not both. This effectively renders the whole exercise something of a draw – or at worst, a tortured compromise that manages to make the Republican Party look bad, diminish the state of Nevada, and discount the results, all in one fell swoop.

Worst of all for South Carolina and Nevada is that little attention is likely to be paid to these intra-party contests now that the race has effectively been framed as a battle between two incumbents who have been all but anointed by their respective parties. Add to that Nevada’s confusing new system and the positioning of its primaries – after the much-ballyhooed kickoffs in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina – and it would be easy to overlook what could be a pivotal swing state in November.

At the same time, Joe Biden is focusing on today’s contest in South Carolina, now that the Democrats upended the early primary schedule in order to place the Palmetto State first. Biden has so far ignored Nevada, as he did Iowa and New Hampshire, in part because he is an incumbent with scant opposition – both spiritualist Marianne Williamson and Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) have failed to gain traction – and also as a likely precursor to a so-called Rose Garden strategy, the 2024 equivalent of his 2020 basement strategy. With polls showing an alarming decline in support for the president, one wonders if Mr. Biden can afford to ignore any battleground state at this point. He is almost hopelessly behind in North Carolina and Georgia, trailing badly in Arizona and Michigan, and in a pitched battle to capture Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Both Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Biden in 2020 captured Nevada and its six electoral votes in the general election. But Trump appears to have completely reversed his misfortune there and is leading Biden in the Silver State by an average of seven points, according to Real Clear Politics. While Biden picks up his win in South Carolina, a state he will certainly lose in November, Trump would do well to pour some love on the good folks of Nevada when he lands his inevitable landslide win in Tuesday’s caucuses. Capturing the state in the general election for the first time could be a signal that Trump is on his way to four more years in the White House.

Read More From Tim Donner

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