early and often

Nikki Haley Couldn’t Even Win the Virgin Islands Caucus

Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Though it didn’t get nearly as much attention as the Nevada Republican caucuses, where Donald Trump enjoyed an uncontested romp, the U.S. Virgin Islands held their own caucuses on the same day with both Trump and Nikki Haley on the ballot. Though there was no polling of this contest, there was some advance buzz that Haley might score an upset in the Caribbean territory, which held what is usually called a “firehouse primary” (a party-sponsored election in limited polling sites — just three in the Virgin Islands), as FiveThirtyEight explained:

[C]ampaigning on the Virgin Islands looks pretty different than it does on the mainland. No candidate has visited the territory in person. …

Instead, the candidates send surrogates, or sometimes they use Zoom to speak at events personally. Haley has done that twice, including on Monday night, and … also has a senior staffer physically on the ground. Trump has not addressed Virgin Islanders himself. … Surrogates for his campaign have held three in-person events in the territory.

Alas for Haley, her terrible week (she lost badly to the “none of these candidates” ballot line in a non-delegate-awarding Nevada primary that Trump skipped on February 6) continued in the Virgin Islands, where Trump won 74 percent of the very small number of Republicans who bothered to turn out. He won all four delegates at stake (a reduced number thanks to party sanctions imposed on the Virgin Islands for holding a caucus earlier than was allowed).

One interesting twist in the territory’s primary system didn’t matter: It required ranked-choice voting to be disclosed if no candidate won a majority in the first round of tabulation. Trump obviously made that irrelevant, and no candidate other than Haley won any votes, even though six withdrawn candidates were still on the ballot.

The next contest will be in Nikki Haley’s home state of South Carolina on February 24; Trump is strongly favored (leading by 31 points in the RealClearPolitics polling averages) and could knock Haley right out of the race with a convincing enough victory. He certainly needed no special effort to rout his one surviving opponent in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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Nikki Haley Couldn’t Even Win the Virgin Islands Caucus