Trump, Cruz Battle Down To The Wire In Wisconsin

Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are locked in battle in a primary that could decide whether or not Donald Trump can get a majority of delegates prior to the GOP Convention.

Donald Trump Ted Cruz

With one day to go, and the question of whether or not Republicans will walk into their convention not knowing who their nominee will be still up in the air, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are battling down to the wire in Wisconsin:

GREEN BAY, Wis. — A bastion of “Midwestern nice.” An opening for Senator Ted Cruz. Swelling doubts about the go-it-alone approach ofDonald J. Trump.

Since his loss in Iowa, Mr. Trump has wanted a rematch with Mr. Cruz. In Wisconsin — another state stocked with conservative activists desperate to stop Mr. Trump — he is getting something like it. And it is not going so well.

As the state prepares to vote on Tuesday, the candidates are at it again, circling and prodding each other in a final sprint before the high-profile contest, which could have outsize ramifications for the Republican nominating contest as Mr. Trump struggles to avoid a contested convention.

And for both campaigns, these final Wisconsin days are proving to be both a necessary stress test and, depending on the results, a likely bellwether of candidate strategy for the rest of the primary season.

Mr. Cruz, who leads Mr. Trump by about 10 percentage points here, according to recent polls, is field-testing a new playbook: exploiting Mr. Trump’s growing unpopularity with women — a gambit that crested last week with the introduction of a Women for Cruz coalition, headlined by Mr. Cruz’s wife and mother.

And Mr. Trump, who tends to eschew the backslapping, handshaking retail politics of traditional campaigns in favor of large rallies, finds himself in a situation he has not faced since the Iowa caucuses: behind in the polls, not entirely in control and forced to focus, laserlike, on just one crucial state.

And Mr. Trump, who tends to eschew the backslapping, handshaking retail politics of traditional campaigns in favor of large rallies, finds himself in a situation he has not faced since the Iowa caucuses: behind in the polls, not entirely in control and forced to focus, laserlike, on just one crucial state.

After something of a spring break from the trail after the Florida primary, where he dispatched Senator Marco Rubio in his home state, Mr. Trump returned to Wisconsin a week before its primary, with a rally in House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s hometown. And — for Mr. Trump, at least — he has maintained a breakneck schedule, with three events throughout the state on Saturday and another three planned for Monday.

Mr. Trump, who prefers to return to Manhattan after evening events to sleep in his own bed, even spent the night in a downtown Milwaukee hotel, staying locally overnight just as he did at the end of the Iowa contest.

On Sunday, Mr. Trump missed the bris for his new grandson, Theodore James Kushner, to stop by Miss Katie’s Diner in Milwaukee, where he walked in and waved before posing for pictures with about a third of the patrons. Retail politics swiftly checked off, he sat down with six of his staff members for breakfast (fried eggs, bacon and hot chocolate with whipped cream) and had a 20-minute chat with reporters.

Despite the headwinds in Wisconsin, where conservatives like Gov. Scott Walker have aligned against him en masse, Mr. Trump rejected comparisons to Iowa, where he finished behind Mr. Cruz before going on to win the New Hampshire primary in his first victory of the cycle.

Wisconsin, he told reporters, “feels very much like New Hampshire to me.”

“Trump wasn’t going to win New Hampshire, and then all of a sudden, we win in a landslide,” he said. “Because I could I feel it with the people. I can feel it with the people in Wisconsin.”

The scramble comes as Mr. Cruz is working hard to outmaneuver Mr. Trump in the shadow primary for convention delegates, leaning on a cadre of campaign officials and loyal activists well versed in the arcana of party rules.

And in the primaries themselves, Mr. Cruz’s ground game, which helped lift him to victory in Iowa, has followed him to Wisconsin, where another “Camp Cruz” has been set up for out-of-state volunteers. One of them, Sam Kinnaman of St. Louis, said he had now worked for Mr. Cruz in five states.

At a campaign office on Saturday in Waukesha, a man in a cowboy hat and another in a Green Bay Packers Cheesehead stood shoulder to shoulder as supporters placed calls to Wisconsin voters. The highest-energy Cruz volunteers appeared to be the senator’s own daughters, ages 7 and 5, who paid a visit to the office with their mother, Heidi, and held a competition: Who could greet the most voters?

“Hi, my name is Caroline. Thanks for supporting my dad,” the older daughter told strangers on a loop. “I’ll be 8 in 12 days.”

At a rally here on Sunday, Mr. Cruz reveled in the presence of some recent supporters: Mr. Walker, Senator Mike Lee of Utah, Carly Fiorina and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, a former star defensive player for the Packers.

Addressing the crowd in a hotel ballroom, Mr. Cruz imagined aloud the prospect of Mr. Gbaja-Biamila’s chasing Mr. Trump on a football field. “I think Donald’s hair would stand on end,” he said.

Mr. Trump’s support on the ground has been harder to trace, and the primary offers a critical test for a campaign that has often struggled with its organization, in Iowa and beyond. (Mr. Trump has maintained that Mr. Cruz “stole” Iowa with caucus-night shenanigans; his crowds are now conditioned to chant “Lyin’ Ted” — Mr. Trump’s favored nickname for his rival — when his name is invoked at rallies.)

The contest also follows a series of missteps and misstatements Mr. Trump has made in recent weeks, which could hurt him both in the coming Republican nominating contests and in a general election, especially among female voters.

Recent polling has consistently shown that Ted Cruz is leading Trump in the Badger State, but the extent of that lead has varied from as high as ten points in the Marquette University Law School Poll to as low as one percent in the Public Policy Polling poll. Currently, Cruz (40.2%) has a 6.5 point lead in the RealClearPolitics average over Trump (33.4%) while Ohio Governor John Kasich sits far behind at 18.6%). The margin is largely the same in the Pollster average. At least on the surface, then, it would appear that Cruz seems favored to pull out a win in tomorrow’s primary, but the size of that win is unclear and will go a long way toward determining what impact it will have on the race and the all important delegate count. If Cruz pulls off a double digit win, then he will likely pick up most of the delegates at stake tomorrow and it will become less likely that Trump will be able to get a majority of delegates on the first ballot. On the other hand, if Trump manages to stay close to Cruz, and especially if he manages to do well in several of Wisconsin’s Congressional Districts, then he could pick off enough delegates to mute the impact of a Cruz win and at least keep the odds of getting a majority within realistic boundaries. Of course, if Trump somehow manages to win the primary, even by a narrow margin, then he will further advance his quest for 1,237 delegates and dealt both the Cruz campaign and the “stop Trump” movement a significant setback.

After Wisconsin, the race heads to New York and a handful of Mid-Atlantic states where Trump is expected to do quite well, but that assumption could change if he stumbles again in Wisconsin. A Trump loss in Wisconsin would, no doubt, energize not just the “Stop Trump” movement, but also the Cruz and Kasich campaigns, all of whom would be working to at least cut away at Trump’s margins in these states sufficiently to impact the delegate allocation that comes out of those states. All of this would play into the effort to deny Trump a win on the first ballot at the convention, something which could mean that Trump would be precluded from winning the nomination at all since it’s unclear just how many of Trump’s delegates would remain loyal to him after a first ballot and just how prepared Trump’s campaign will be for a floor fight if it comes to that.

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. al-Ameda says:

    (Mr. Trump has maintained that Mr. Cruz “stole” Iowa with caucus-night shenanigans; his crowds are now conditioned to chant “Lyin’ Ted” — Mr. Trump’s favored nickname for his rival — when his name is invoked at rallies.)

    The 2016 Republican campaign reminds me that for some people, middle school was the high point in their life.

  2. Mr. Prosser says:

    @al-Ameda: A middle school high point requires one to still think f&rt jokes are funny. Pollsters should add that to their list.

  3. gVOR08 says:

    @al-Ameda: Lefty bloggers (the only people who seem to be able to predict anything) sometimes comment on how much our ruling so called elite are like a junior high lunch room. The important thing is to suck up to the VSPs, flatter the VSPs, and support VSP opinion, hoping to get a seat near the cool kids.

  4. Dave Francis says:

    I can tell you now without any contradiction the greater majority of Donald Trump supporters are not going to vote for anybody in Washington now, and that they will unseat every GOP career professional when it comes to elections? The elite Republicans can try to place Paul Ryan, Scott Walker or any person not even in the primaries voted in as delegates, will cause unknown effects and will definitely split the party. Dirty tricks that have haunted Cruz and his other complicity will not be accepted.

    Has the GOP establishment got so desperate, so power hungry, that they are willing to use fraud to cheat the American people with the engineering the voting machines? I heard today their is a report going around of voter fraud, and hopefully it will be investigated unlike Ted Cruz people sending out the diabolical inference that Ben Carson was dropping out or other carefully planned injections of Donald Trump name missing of ballots, strange amounts of population size in Texas, when the real figure is well under of the voting numbers? Eventually the truth will ring out, and trying to hide the truth from the American voter finally is leaked no matter what resources they use to keep criminal issues are concealed?


    April 3, 2016 – The Forbes Group has learned from an insider source that Wisconsin Political leaders Governor Scott Walker and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, have joined forces to derail GOP front-runner Donald Trump by using their vast influence in their vast influence in there home state ahead of the April 5th primary.

    The source revealed that a plan is to manipulate the electronic voting machines through a undetectable, self-erasing software program that will switch a pre-designated percentage of the votes, after the votes have been cast, from trump to Cruz.

    Based on post election polling data and a mathematical analysis of voting percentages, it is likely that that this same election fraud tactic occurred in Iowa, Ohio, and Texas, states that the GOP leaders could justify wins by their preferred candidates because of either their home state advantage or false pre-election polls.

    Shortly after learning of the suspected election-fixing in Iowa, where TFG learned that tallying software had mysteriously donated to the GOP by Microsoft–a staunch Marco Rubio supporter and second largest donor. Mr. Gary Forbes, CEO of the Forbes Group, had called for a federal investigation of Microsoft, its founder Bill gates and then candidate Marco Rubio. Forbes also asked for an immediate and permanent nationwide ban of all electronic voting machines.


    When you have the mainstream media against you and twisting everything you say, or statements out of context, its no wonder the American people are being short changed by what they see, hear from newspapers. Sorry people are gullible and many take the word of the government, the extremist left or right has facts? All I care is that Donald Trump builds the Southern border Wall, operates an exit/entry system to end the illegal alien and a Overstay tracking. Holds business owners accountable for hiring illegal aliens, using the new mandated innovations of E-Verify digital applications for ICE.

    That Trump rebuilds our military into the greatest fighting force the world has ever seen, which President Obama has intentionally weakened and decimated. That no immigrant and that include refugees can enter our sovereign nation unless fully vetted. Renegotiate every terrible free trade agreement, that is fair and equitable or face heavy importation tariffs.

    That the 2nd amendment ‘Right To bare Arms’ so we can protect our families and is have our rights chipped away, as this liberal government is doing. That every American has a right ‘To Free Speech’ as many people have been singled out and may not speak their mind. No American should be black listed, that the political correct policing of our education system, to deform and brain wash our children’s mind. That everything that Mr. Trump has stated in his debates comes to fruition? You say anything of a commitment to Donald Trump, and your accused of using spam; facebook and the commentary dialogue of Disqus banned me, with no way to communicate the facts to them?

    A large portion of the American people thinks that they deserve something for nothing, and don’t want to work for it. This is the notion that is offered by Hillary and Bill Clinton and Bernie Sanders, that if you bought the promise of Bernie Sanders you would be committed to paying 79 percent more in taxes. Trump has a good tax system for all, which is far superior to any other possibilities.

    That’s why I am many other people called the ‘Silent Majority’ have come out the darkness and blinking in the light of the travesty of politics, who have ignored voting before and now voting for Donald Trump.

  5. al-Ameda says:

    @Dave Francis:

    That’s why I am many other people called the ‘Silent Majority’ have come out the darkness and blinking in the light of the travesty of politics, who have ignored voting before and now voting for Donald Trump.

    “Silent Majority”?
    You guys control the dysfunctional dumpster fire mess that is the Republican Congress.

  6. CSK says:

    Purely as an aside, I don’t think I’ve ever seen two more repellent visages paired in the same photograph.