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Haley's loss to "none of these candidates" in Nevada primary was coordinated effort

"None of these candidates" wins in Nevada
More Nevada voters chose "None of these candidates" than Nikki Haley in GOP primary 03:14

Nikki Haley's surprising loss to "none of these candidates" in the Nevada primary, where she was the only candidate who was still competing for the Republican nomination, was the result of a coordinated effort by Trump supporters to prevent Haley from claiming victory — even though the primary allocates no GOP delegates. 

Trump caucus captains told CBS News that they encouraged their supporters to check the box for none of these candidates on the Nevada primary ballot. This was the first year that all registered voters received a primary ballot in the mail in the Silver State. 

"I tell people if they want to vote for Trump, they have to go to the caucus and to vote none of the above," said Guadalupe Reyes, a Trump caucus captain and state Assembly candidate for Nevada District 41. "If they are a Haley candidate, I say go ahead. But if you want to vote for Trump, you have to go to the caucus." 

Though Haley was listed on the primary ballot, she did not invest resources or campaign in Nevada because she is not a candidate in the caucus contest, which takes place Thursday, and which is the only race in the state that allocates delegates. Her campaign has complained that the Nevada state Republican Party "rigged" the contest to favor Trump. 

"We made the decision early on that we were not going to pay $55,000 to a Trump entity to participate in a process that was rigged for Trump," Haley's campaign manager Betsy Ankney told reporters during a press call, prior to the primary. "So Nevada is not and has never been our focus."

Other GOP contenders told CBS News they agreed with the Haley campaign's assessment. 

"Even Donald Trump knows that when you play penny slots, the house wins. We didn't bother to play a game rigged for Trump. We're full steam ahead in South Carolina and beyond," Haley campaign's Olivia Perez-Cubas said in a statement, in response to the primary results.

While Nevada represents yet another setback for Haley, her campaign has laid out its strategy going into Super Tuesday, on March 5. Ankney says Haley will be relying on the 11 out of 16 Super Tuesday states that have open or semi-open primaries that allow independents to participate. 

Haley's campaign is courting independent voters who have not traditionally participated in Republican primaries. In Massachusetts, for example, independents make up 60% of the state's registered voters. Haley's campaign recently put together a team of state representatives and local leaders who are working to mobilize voters on her behalf.

Though Haley's campaign insists she'll stay in the race through South Carolina and Super Tuesday, the Nevada results could haunt her and raise the pressure on her from within the party and among some allies to look for an exit before South Carolina.

Some Haley allies have told CBS News they hope to keep Haley, who was twice elected governor in South Carolina, from suffering a potentially embarrassing loss in her home state that could be problematic for her political future beyond 2024. In that race, unlike Nevada, both Trump and Haley will be on the same ballot.

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