With the Wisconsin primary fast approaching, Gov. Scott Walker yesterday endorsed Ted Cruz. He will campaign for, and with, Cruz in the coming days.
Endorsements of non-Trump candidates by leading state figures haven’t tended to slow Donald Trump in the past. In South Carolina, for example, endorsements by Gov. Nikki Haley and Sen. Tim Scott boosted Marco Rubio in relation to the other also-rans, but failed to prevent Trump from winning decisively.
Trump had a big lead in South Carolina, though. Moreover, the field was still large at the time of that primary.
In Wisconsin, by contrast, the race is extremely tight. The RCP poll average has Cruz in first place by less than one point. John Kasich, who dearly would have loved to be endorsed by Walker, is 10 points back, but statistically tied with Cruz and Trump in one poll.
In addition, the Wisconsin field consists of only three candidates. Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Ben Carson, all present in South Carolina, have departed. Accordingly, Trump won’t be able to win the state with the 32.5 percent share he received in South Carolina.
Trump responded to Walker’s endorsement by bad-mouthing the job the governor is doing in Wisconsin. Having survived a massive recall effort in which the state’s entire electorate voted, one imagines that Walker won’t be discredited among Republicans as a whole by Trump’s attack. According to Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll, surveys show that, among GOP primary voters, Walker has a job approval rating of 77 percent. (So law schools are now in the polling business?)
There was also an interesting moment on the campaign trail involving Speaker Paul Ryan. Speaking in Ryan’s home town of Janesville, Trump asked the crowd “How do you like Paul Ryan; you like him?” According to this report, “while some in the crowd cheered, a hearty boo took over the room.”
Trump, reportedly surprised by the reaction, then asked his supporters whether they are Republicans and conservatives. They responded affirmatively to both questions.
I too might have been tempted to boo at the mention of the bleeding heart, guilt-ridden House Speaker. Surely, though, he remains popular among Republicans in his district. Boos at a Trump rally, even though the tycoon may not have intended to invoke them, probably won’t help him in the primary.
Wisconsin’s primary is open. This fact reduces the impact of Walker’s endorsement of Cruz. But in a close race, which Wisconsin figures to be, the endorsement still seems like an asset for the Texas Senator.
UPDATE: Today, a new poll by Marquette Law School shows Cruz leading Trump by nearly 10 points. This survey was taken before Walker endorsed Trump.