Former President Donald J. Trump, long the dominant front-runner in the Republican nominating contest, has made it clear for months that he is itching to focus on a likely general election matchup between him and President Biden.
On Saturday, he’ll campaign in Nevada, a critical battleground state. But first he’ll need at least a handful of his supporters to turn out for the nominating caucuses in the state on Feb. 8 — and his last remaining Republican rival for the nomination, Nikki Haley, is doing everything she can to remind him she’s still in the race even if they won’t meet head-to-head in Nevada.
Off the trail on Friday, Ms. Haley assailed Mr. Trump as “unhinged” on Fox News as she continued to try and bait him into a one-on-one debate. Mr. Trump was in a New York City courtroom, but his campaign sent out email blasts pointing to articles that seemed to bolster the case that she should cede the race to him, and attacking her on immigration.
“There’s one thing Americans know — Nikki will always put America last,” Steven Cheung, a Trump spokesman, wrote.
There are two contests coming up in Nevada: the caucuses, and a presidential primary on Feb. 6. The presidential primary features Ms. Haley on the ballot, but won’t count toward the G.O.P. nomination, so she is skipping the state entirely. The caucuses feature Mr. Trump without a single major competitor — and that’s the contest that will determine who gets the state’s delegate prize.
Critics have argued that the state party set up the caucuses to benefit Mr. Trump — which the party denies.
“Nevada will certainly be a good messaging opportunity for Trump, because he’s going to win all the delegates here, and he will win unopposed,” said Jeremy Gelman, an associate professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Reno. “He will be able to say he swept Nevada.”
Still, the specter of Ms. Haley’s continued presence in the race is likely to hang over Mr. Trump’s speech on Saturday, his first campaign event since winning in New Hampshire, where he beat her by 11 percentage points.
The former president and his team were hoping his showing there would persuade Ms. Haley to end her campaign. But she vowed to keep fighting, drawing Mr. Trump’s ire.
“I don’t get too angry,” he said on Tuesday. In a signal of the likelihood that he would continue escalating his attacks against her, he added: “I get even.”
On Saturday, she will be across the country, holding a rally in her home state of South Carolina, the site of her next electoral battle with Mr. Trump on Feb. 24. Back in Las Vegas, he’ll share a different split screen, this one with Vice President Kamala Harris.
Ms. Harris will attend a get-out-the-vote event at a labor union headquarters meant to encourage turnout in Nevada’s Democratic primary.