To those voters, Trump is “a two-time winner now going for a three-peat,” Noble said. “Basically you’re holding out for a Hail Mary.”
To pull out an unlikely victory, Haley, the former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador, must secure the support of 1,215 G.O.P. delegates — a count that, as of now, stands at 33 for Trump and 17 for Haley.
She is looking to build up her total in 13 G.O.P. primary states that are not limited to registered Republicans, including South Carolina, her home turf. But that strategy fell flat in New Hampshire, and Trump maintains a firm grasp on the Republican base nationwide, including in the delegate-rich states of California, Florida and Texas. Trump’s allies have also worked behind the scenes to twist primary and delegate rules in his favor.
Nevada, with its confusing dueling primary and caucus this week, offered something of a preview. Before a single vote was cast, Nevada Republicans rendered the primary moot when they decided that only the results of the caucus on Thursday would determine the allotment of the state’s 26 delegates, a move meant to benefit Trump.
His supporters in Nevada, including the governor, had pushed selecting “None of These Candidates” on the primary ballot as a protest vote against Haley. In a final twist, Haley will technically win the contest — state election law says “only votes cast for the named candidates shall be counted” — but the confounding result will deny her even a symbolic victory.