WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Virgin Islands are typically not a key player in nominating presidential candidates but in this year’s Republican primary, the territory is in the spotlight. Political analysts explain the importance of the Islands’ role in the race between former President Donald Trump and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.
Following the closely watched Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, up next in the race for the Republican nomination: the US Virgin Islands.
“The Virgin Islands has never been a key player but its timing makes it a player this time,” said Henry Olsen, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. “It will be the third state or territory to announce results.”
Olsen said the Islands make for an interesting duel between Trump and Haley.
“Even though its small it’s something that will make news particularly if Donald Trump doesn’t win because it would be the first time in any jurisdiction in the 2024 cycle will have a one against him,” said Olsen.
The former President won both Iowa and New Hampshire. Olsen said the Islands’ use of ranked choice voting, where voters rank candidates in order of preference, would’ve made for an interesting race if more than two candidates were still in the running.
“What I’m really looking forward to seeing here and in another jurisdiction is how well will Nikki Haley do,” said Olsen. “And if Haley does well she will tout that as momentum and will get some pickup in the media. If she wins then she gets four delegates and the boost of ‘hey Donald Trump can be beaten’ it doesn’t have to be inevitable. It wont be a huge thing but its not going to be nothing. You could hear more of and see some national and local media play.”
Compared to other places, the number of voters on the Islands is relatively small but both Trump and Haley have put in a lot more effort wooing Republicans on the Islands.
“And it shows that they understand it’s not going to be decisive and that getting four delegates is better than getting no delegates,” said Olsen. “Most importantly, getting that media hit the analysis of how the two people are faring. They’ve spent some time courting this electorate and it will be interesting to see how it plays out.”
The Virgin Islands Republican presidential caucus is Thursday February 8th.