Trump wins trio of caucuses, Haley wins Washington, D.C. primary: Key takeaways from this weekend's GOP elections

Victories set stage for Super Tuesday, but also featured limited voter participation

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally Feb. 23, 2024, in Rock Hill, S.C. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Former President Donald Trump spoke at a campaign rally in South Carolina. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
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Former President Donald Trump swept a trio of states Saturday, inching his way closer to a formal grasp of the party’s nomination for president.

But the weekend also featured a bright spot for Nikki Haley, who won her first contest in the nominating cycle with a victory in Sunday's Washington, D.C., primaries.

Trump notched victories in the Missouri and Idaho caucuses, and also gained the 39 delegates available at Michigan's convention caucuses.

The two will face off Monday night in the North Dakota caucuses, and then in the numerous elections being held Tuesday, which is known as Super Tuesday, where over 800 delegates will be in play. Despite her victory Sunday, Haley remains far behind Trump in the race for the Republican nomination.

Republican presidential candidate former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks at a Republican campaign event in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, March 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Nikki Haley spoke at a campaign event in North Carolina Saturday.

Weekend votes featured limited participation

None of the three elections Trump won this weekend were primaries. All were caucuses, which limit turnout by requiring participants to arrive at a specific time and usually to stay for a certain period to participate in a more formal process.

Caucus specifics vary from state to state, but they usually involve hearing speeches and then casting a vote.

In both Idaho and Missouri, state lawmakers canceled the Republican primary and replaced it with caucuses.

This gave a small percentage of Republicans in the state control over who the party nominates.

The last time Idaho held caucuses instead of a primary, in 2012, only about 45,000 people took part. That was about a fifth of all registered Republicans in the state. The tally Saturday night in Idaho appeared to be even lower — the Associated Press reported fewer than 40,000 votes were cast.

The timing of the caucuses was also an obstacle for many. Idaho, which is split between the Mountain and Pacific time zones, held its caucuses at 12:30 or 1:30 in the afternoon. Missouri held its caucuses at 10 a.m. Central Time.

Although Washington, D.C., held a primary, the district is overwhelmingly Democratic, so a small number of people actually voted. The AP results showed barely 2,000 votes total, with just under 1,300 of them cast for Haley.

The Associated Press called the Missouri caucuses for Trump at 12:40 p.m. ET and Idaho at 6:58 p.m. ET Saturday. The AP called the race for Haley at 8:36 p.m. ET Sunday.

Michigan’s caucus convention was even more restricted

In Michigan, which held its caucuses at 10 a.m. ET, the average voter couldn’t even take part.

Michigan also held a primary last week that allocated about a third of that state’s delegates. Trump won that contest easily.

But there was a scheduling conflict between the date set by Michigan’s Legislature, which is controlled by Democrats, and rules for the Republican nominating calendar set by the Republican National Committee.

So the Michigan GOP created a hybrid system in which a majority of the state’s 55 delegates are allocated based on a caucus convention.

The caucus convention was held Saturday and brought together around 2,000 party activists from around the state, who were selected at the county level.

A state of confusion

But the confusion in Michigan was made worse when activists last year accused state party chair Kristina Karamo of mismanaging the organization’s finances.

Trump backed a different state party chair, former Rep. Pete Hoekstra, as did the Republican National Committee.

Karamo, however, refused to back down and organized a caucus convention of her own, separate from the caucus convention held by Hoekstra and his organization.

Only one day before the two dueling meetings were set to take place, Karamo and her former staff bowed to the pressure from the national party and canceled their competing caucus convention.

Former President Donald Trump, along with several other people, stands onstage at an election night watch party.
Trump at an election night watch party in Columbia, S.C., on Feb. 24.

Heading into Tuesday

Though the votes might be small, the victories in Missouri, Michigan, and Idaho give Trump a little momentum heading into Super Tuesday. Trump’s campaign hopes to wrap up the primary race in the coming weeks — or as soon as Tuesday night, should Haley drop out.

The victories also offer positive headlines for Trump, in contrast to his numerous, high-profile legal problems. Those include recent civil judgments against him totaling over $500 million, criminal charges related to his attempts to overturn the election and his handling of classified information, and Supreme Court cases on whether he can appear on Colorado's ballot and the validity of his immunity claims.

For Haley, the 19 delegates she receives from Washington, D.C., may be less important than the moral victory of finally winning an election. But as for staying in the race, she has said that March 5 is “as far as I’ve thought in terms of going forward.”