The next showdown in the Republican nominating fight between Donald Trump and Nikki Haley takes place in Nevada this week.
But because of legal disputes and political maneuverings, there are actually two contests.
Haley, Trump’s last remaining rival for the Republican presidential nomination, is on one ballot on Tuesday, while Trump is on a different one on Thursday.
Trump, the former Republican president, has almost clinched the nomination after victories in nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire. Haley, a former U.N. ambassador who has no clear path to the nomination, has vowed to stay in the race and is aiming to make a potential last stand in her home state of South Carolina on Feb. 24.
Here are some key facts about why the Nevada race is such an anomaly this year:
WHY TWO CONTESTS?
The first contest is a state-run primary on Feb. 6. Haley is on that ballot. The second vote is a caucus on Feb. 8, organized by the Trump-friendly Nevada Republican Party, with just Trump on that ballot.
Even if Haley wins the primary on Feb. 6, it will be an empty victory, as only candidates competing in the party-run caucus on Feb. 8 can compete for the state’s 26 delegates.
That means Trump is almost certainly assured to win all of Nevada’s 26 delegates on Feb. 8.
There is a backstory as to why many of the Western state’s voters find themselves receiving two ballots in the mail, with Trump on only one of them, and Haley on the other.
The competing ballots are the result of a conflict between the state Republican Party – run by Trump allies – and a 2021 state law that mandates a primary must be held.
Nevada has long held caucuses to chose presidential candidates, but after reporting issues and other problems with the 2020 caucuses, the state legislature passed a law switching its voting system to a more straightforward, traditional primary vote.
The law was also aimed at making Nevada a more attractive option as it sought to move higher up the nominating calendar pecking order. Initially, the move appeared to be a success: for 2024, by setting a primary date of Feb. 6, the state captured the coveted spot of being third in the nation to vote.
But presidential nominating caucuses are run by state political parties, not the state, and the Trump-friendly Nevada Republican Party decided to stick with a caucus on Feb. 8. Party leaders viewed a caucus as helping Trump, because of his superior ground game in the state.
They also ruled last year that any candidate participating in the primary on Feb. 6 would be barred from participating in the caucus, and thus could not compete for any of the state’s 26 delegates.
WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE NEVADA?
On one level, Nevada got what it wanted: third in line in the nominating process. But on another, it’s an empty prize: Haley is not campaigning there, Trump has made only one recent visit, and the national media are all but ignoring a contest the state Republican Party sewed up in Trump’s favor months ago.