Signs That The Stop Trump Movement Is Working In Wisconsin?

There are some signs of hope out of Wisconsin for those trying to stop Donald Trump.


Up until now, the efforts of Donald Trump’s Republican rivals, as well as leading Republican and conservative insiders, to halt Donald Trump’s momentum in the hope of forcing an open convention have been going seemingly nowhere. Despite his own caustic rhetoric, and quite often millions of dollars in ads aimed solely at taking him out, Trump has led in the polls nearly consistently since July 2015 and racked up an impressive series of primary wins that has put him in the lead in the delegate count and left him as the person best situated to garner the 1,237 delegates needed to win the Republican nomination. Over the past week or so, though, things really haven’t been going well for the Trump campaign. Last week, the candidate found himself largely on the losing end of an argument with Ted Cruz over the candidates wives. This week, he finds himself mired in the aftermath of the battery charges against his campaign manager and the candidates’ own controversial remarks about abortion. With less than a week to go until the crucial Wisconsin primary, this is hardly an ideal position for Trump to be in, and it appears to be showing in a new poll from Marquette University that shows Ted Cruz jumping to a significant lead in the Badger State:

JANESVILLE, Wis. — The danger signs are mounting for Donald J. Trump in Wisconsin: Right-wing radio hosts are flaying him, Gov. Scott Walker and other elected Republicans have endorsed Senator Ted Cruz, and a new poll showed Mr. Cruz with a 10 percentage-point lead in the state before Tuesday’s primary.

The Stop Trump movement may never have another opportunity like the one here, where resistance to Mr. Trump was running high even before his campaign became consumed by a new round of controversies, from his mocking of Mr. Cruz’s wife to the arrest of his campaign manager to his comments in favor of punishing women who get abortions.

If Mr. Trump is dealt a setback in the Wisconsin primary, including a potential sweep by Mr. Cruz of all 42 delegates, it would be his most prominent reversal since his second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses in February. And it would show Mr. Trump’s vulnerability before the race moves to New York and other Northeastern states.

The state’s Republican establishment, cohesive and battle-tested after years of partisan warfare under Mr. Walker, has dug in to support Mr. Cruz — not out of true love for the Texas senator, but in a marriage of convenience to halt Mr. Trump, whose temperament and conservatism many doubt.

But at the same time, if the forces arrayed against Mr. Trump do not prevail in Wisconsin, they are unlikely to slow Mr. Trump in the ideologically more favorable turf of the East, increasing his chances of locking down the nomination before the July national convention.

A poll released Wednesday by Marquette University Law School showed Mr. Cruz leading the Republican field with 40 percent and Mr. Trump with 30 percent, a reversal from a month earlier when Mr. Trump held a 10-point lead. Gov. John Kasich of Ohio was in third, with 21 percent.

A Cruz victory would suggest that a backlash against Mr. Trump has set in after a series of nasty episodes, including his insults of Heidi Cruz and the arrest of Corey Lewandowski, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, on a charge of manhandling a female reporter.

Mr. Cruz went further than ever before on Tuesday during a CNN town hall in Milwaukee, where he suggested he would not support Mr. Trump if he became the party’s nominee.

“It’s gotten really ugly,” Mr. Cruz said. “What lesson do our kids take watching us?”

Earlier he said the battery charge filed in Florida against Mr. Lewandowski should be “a fire-able offense.”

With Mr. Trump adamantly defending Mr. Lewandowski as the victim in the encounter, after video evidence contradicted the manager’s earlier charge that the reporter was “delusional,” Mr. Cruz said, “Nominating Donald Trump would be an absolute train wreck.”

Mr. Trump’s unfavorable rating in the Marquette poll, conducted before Mr. Lewandowski’s arrest, was 70 percent. Only 24 percent of women planning to vote in the Republican primary backed Mr. Trump, fewer than for the other two candidates.

Still, Mr. Trump has many advantages in Wisconsin, including its large number of white working-class voters, a group that has flocked to him throughout the campaign, and a passionate base of supporters for whom he can do no wrong. He plans a heavy schedule of appearances through the weekend.

Thousands waited more than two hours on Tuesday to hear him in Janesville during the candidate’s first visit to the state. At the rally, he belittled Mr. Walker for his record and even his love for Harley-Davidson motorcycles. “He doesn’t look like a motorcycle guy to me, I’m sorry,” Mr. Trump said to laughter.

Neither women nor men waiting to hear him, many of whom bought Trump hats, buttons and shirts from vendors working the crowd like a Green Bay Packers game, said they were unsettled by Mr. Trump’s derogatory remarks about women.

“I think he calls ’em as he sees ’em,” said Mae Pospeschil, a title searcher from Beloit.

Unlike in neighboring Illinois and Michigan, Midwestern industrial states where Mr. Trump had strong victories, the race in Wisconsin is much tighter, in part because of sharp regional differences among Republicans.

Voters in the Milwaukee suburbs, the reddest counties in the state, hold highly negative views of Mr. Trump, according to a polling analysis by The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Voters in northern and western counties are more slightly favorable to Mr. Trump, the Marquette poll showed.


Charlie Sykes, a radio host in Milwaukee, who derisively calls Trump supporters “Trumpkins” for their unquestioning loyalty, subjected Mr. Trump to a punishing interview this week. “Remember, we’re not on the playground,” he chided the businessman over his insults of Mrs. Cruz. “We’re running for president of the United States.”

The regional differences matter because of how Wisconsin awards delegates. Three each go to the winner of each of the state’s eight congressional districts. Eighteen more are awarded to the winner of the statewide vote.

Prior to the release of this poll, Wisconsin was essentially too close to call, with most the limited amount of polling that had been done showing Cruz and Trump within the margin of error of each other. These numbers, from what is widely recognized as Wisconsin’s most reliable polling operation, would seem to indicate that Ted Cruz is surging in the Badger State and may be able to pull off a victory that would make it more difficult for Trump to amass the majority of delegates he needs to win the nomination. On some level, the fact that Trump is slipping in Wisconsin may seem counter-intuitive given the fact that he won in states such as Michigan and Illinois and that Wisconsin has a similar blue collar working class demographic that would seemingly be receptive to his messages about immigration and trade. Digging deeper into the Marquette poll, though, one finds that one of the main reasons that Trump is not doing well is due to the fact that he has significantly high unfavorable numbers among voters and among women in particular. While this has been the case since the beginning of the race, the fact that it seems to be playing a role now could be evidence that voters are looking ahead to the fall and factoring in the fact that Trump is losing in head-to-head matchups against Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. To the extent that Republicans actually want to win in the fall, they may be starting to realize that Donald Trump is most assuredly not the horse to back.

None of this is to say that Donald Trump’s campaign is over, or that a loss in Wisconsin means the end of Trump’s campaign. With six days left to go until people vote in Wisconsin, it’s possible that Trump could turn things around in the Badger State and either pull off a win or close the gap sufficiently that he finishes close enough to Ted Cruz to take a significant share of the delegates available in that state. Trump also continues to lead in the delegate count, and in the polling in Pennsylvania, New York, where a new poll gives him a massive 36 point lead, California and elsewhere. Of all the candidates he remains the only one likely to get to 1,237 delegates before the convention. A loss in Wisconsin, though, would slow Trump’s momentum and give at least some hope to those forces that hope this last minute effort to deny him the nomination actually works.

Update: As a counterpoint to the Marquette University poll, a new poll from Public Policy Polling shows the race essentially tied, with Cruz at 38% and Trump at 37%.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. C. Clavin says:

    Trump is killing himself. The more people learn the more aghast they are at him. The idea that Trump can be President of this country is preposterous.
    Cruz, who is just as incompetent as Trump if not more, is incapable of harming him.

  2. Pch101 says:

    The odds are decent that there will be enough quasi-strategic voters in upcoming primaries that no one will have a majority going into the Republican convention. (If California is among them, then only takes a few more states to achieve that result.) And that’s when the fun will begin.

    The question is what this convention would look like. Since the establishment doesn’t want either Trump or Cruz, things could be interesting.

  3. Gustopher says:

    The problem with the Stop Trump movement is that if they successfully stop Trump, they will get Ted Cruz. I could see moderate Republicans taking a “burn it down” mentality.

  4. Pch101 says:


    I could see the establishment making this argument:

    Trump: You can’t run because you’re unelectable!

    Cruz: You can’t run because you’re Canadian!

    But we have a guy who is electable and from an important swing state. Paging Mr. Kasich…

  5. grumpy realist says:

    @Pch101: In that case I see BOTH Trump and Cruz taking their supporter’s votes, stomping away from the table, and running third party.

    supposedly 61% chance of a contested convention. Oh boy, drag out the popcorn!!!

    (I’m just miffed that the Secret Service came down against allowing guns at the convention. So much for Republicans living up to their professed beliefs.)

  6. Pch101 says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I can see Trump doing that, but not Cruz. Cruz identifies with the Republican brand and wants to own it; Trump is just using the Republicans for his own devices and isn’t particularly party-loyal.

    I suspect that the establishment is willing to do anything to defeat Trump and will be highly reluctant to find a place for him on the ticket. They might be more willing to negotiate Cruz into the VP slot as a sort of compromise, even though they don’t like him. Then again, the establishment has no assurances that it will get what it wants.

  7. gVOR08 says:

    @Pch101: I can see “the establishment” making that argument. But given their apparent total impotence to date, I don’t know how they enforce it. Good thing the Secret Service isn’t allowing firearms.

  8. C. Clavin says:


    I could see moderate Republicans taking a “burn it down” mentality.

    One of the partners in this firm is a staunch Republican. Not a moderate bone in his body. He thinks fossil fuels are a renewable resource…seriously. And he is talking about having to vote for Clinton.

  9. stonetools says:

    “Yes! The better the stop Trump movement does in Wisconsin and elsewhere, the better chance there will be that no one gets the 1237 and therefore a chaotic “open ” convention. The plan is working…”

    (steeples fingers, cackles)

  10. gVOR08 says:

    @stonetools: Schadenfreude served up warm is tasty. But I do fear collateral damage from this train wreck.

    Back in the early 70s somebody was doing a parody radio show, The Stoned Ranger. In one episode crime fighting was slow so Stoned sent Tonto into town to get a job with the railroad. “So, Mr. Tonto, if you saw two trains heading toward each other on the same track, what would you do?” “Hmm. Me get red lantern, stop trains.” “And if they didn’t see you?” “Hmm. Me run to switch and put one train on other track.” “And if the switch were rusted shut?” ‘Hmmmmm. Me know! Me get Stoned Ranger!” “What would he do?” “Oh him not do anything, him love watch train wreck.” I keep being reminded of that story lately.

  11. Pch101 says:


    The post-WW II Christian Democrats in (West) Germany were formed as a right/center-right coalition that was intended to keep the hard right (e.g. the Nazis) from ever regaining power. The party system under Weimar was so fragmented that the socialists and communists were the only parties that were willing to clash with the Nazis, which merely made it easier for the Nazis to come to power since the Nazis were somewhat less frightening than the far-left alternatives.

    The (few) remaining Republicans who are rational need to take a page from the Christian Democrats and realize that they cannot form alliances with crazy people and come away from the relationship unscathed. Although it is convenient to work with the nutjobs over the short run, it serves the long-term interests of economic conservatives to limit the amount of business that they do with these people.

    Reagan managed to put the coalition together, but it was never going to be sustainable over the long run as the nutjobs inevitably began to feel more empowered to turn their rhetoric into policy. At this point, the Republicans who are in it for the money (trade and taxes) are still in denial that they provided safe harbor to these people; unwilling to realize what they have done, they are astonished that it has gotten to this point when they should be connecting the dots.

  12. gVOR08 says:

    Dr. K did the best short diagnosis of the Republican’s situation that I’ve seen.

    After all, what is the modern GOP? A simple model that accounts for just about everything you see is that it’s an engine designed to harness white resentment on behalf of higher incomes for the donor class.

    The problem, instead, seems to be demography — an increasingly diverse population means that the party needs to go beyond white resentment, but the resentful whites are having none of it. Oh, and the base never cared about the ideology.

    Douthat and other reformicons are demanding the Party pay attention to the needs of the poor and middle class, not just the wealthy, in order to attract a different voter base. But that’s not possible unless they also come up with a different donor base.

  13. grumpy realist says:

    Good (if depressing) article from The Week about the fact that at the end of all of this, the Republican party will continue doing as it always has.

    The Republican Party is the modern House of Bourbon. (“They never learned anything, nor forgot anything.”)

  14. gVOR08 says:

    @grumpy realist: I mostly agree with The Week. I’ve encountered a lot of people who’ve said they were lifelong R voters, but couldn’t stomach W. I expect another wave. I think some of the establishment wing of the Party will defect to the Dems. But the Party will still have the base voters. They’ll still have the Koch Bros money. They’ll still have the massive think tank and foundation infrastructure. And they’ll still control a lot of confederate and cowboy states. They’ll become a hard RW, nativist, ostensibly populist party.

    Conservatives are proto-fasc kiss up, kick down people. They’ll mostly fall in line under Trump, Cruz, or whoever.

  15. Dave D says:

    @grumpy realist: You know the liberal media keeps repeating the deep bench theory which this article does. How did the deep bench turn out this year? It is a Trump v Cruz contest. If I were to believe that they can be competitive by 2018, I probably would have heard of these state legislature super stars who apparently can unite the donor class, white nationalists and disaffected GED holders. That said party representation means a lot to a lot of unthoughtful people so who knows.

  16. grumpy realist says:

    Another journalist suspecting that Trump is simply trolling us all and got in over his head.

  17. grumpy realist says:

    Another point: Trump’s reaction in the Corey bruhaha has probably really ticked off a lot of women.