WASHINGTON, April 4, 2016 — Donald Trump has not had a good week. He stumbled over an abortion question from Chris Matthews, then faced criticism after he said he will not fire his campaign manager even if he is found guilty of battery against a female reporter.
Those missteps could set Trump up for a loss in Wisconsin on Tuesday. Polls suggest the GOP front-runner is lagging; a CBS poll has Ted Cruz leading in Wisconsin 43 percent to Trump’s 37 percent. Trump, Cruz and John Kasich are all fighting to win Wisconsin’s 42 delegates.
A victory for Cruz would keep Trump out of the range to get the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the nomination. A victory by Trump would put him in control of the race and keep Cruz down. It would show that his campaign is still alive and on track despite what his critics say.
Wisconsin voters call themselves “true conservatives.” South Florida college student Brian Fernandez, who is from Green Bay, says, “Wisconsin is angry with the system, and we want someone who can bring positive change and represents our beliefs. Paul Ryan has angered a lot of fellow Wisconsin voters after finding out where Ryan’s true allegiance lies.”
Trump is facing the reality of a Wisconsin loss, but he is poised for a strong showing in the rural north and western counties. Wisconsin is nearly a winner-take-all, however; 24 of the 42 delegates will be allocated based on results in eight congressional districts. The remaining 18 delegates will be bound to the candidate who wins the most votes in the statewide contest.
A Cruz victory in Wisconsin could set the stage for a bloody, brokered GOP convention. That’s exactly the outcome a lot of Republican leaders want. A contested convention would be a comeback story for the GOP establishment. Trump’s recent controversies may not have cost him existing supporters, but they may be limiting his ability to convert new supporters.
The Wisconsin primary will enhance Trump’s stature as the GOP colossus, or it will expose his feet of clay. If, after all his gaffes, this week’s gaffes finally stick, the GOP establishment will have a real shot at the brokered convention it needs to take back control of the party from its upstarts. If he sails on unaffected, his nomination will be almost inevitable.
If Cruz wins, his campaign will suddenly be flying high. Trump will probably fail to get enough delegates to win the nomination outright, and Cruz will march into Cleveland with real claim and the credibility to take the nomination from Trump.
The GOP establishment wants neither Cruz nor Trump, and it will do what it can to get someone—anyone—else. Kasich, Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney will all be possibilities. But first it needs Cruz to defeat Trump in Wisconsin.