It’s 8:00 p.m. in the East, which means that polls in Wisconsin will close in an hour. Ted Cruz is expected to win the Republican primary and will be hoping for a victory decisive enough to capture all or nearly all of the 42 delegates up for grabs.
On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders appears to be ahead of Hillary Clinton. In fact, Clinton seemed almost to be conceding Wisconsin to Sanders, devoting most of her time recently to shoring up her latest “fire wall” — New York.
We’ll be reporting on these races, with a heavy emphasis on the GOP side, throughout the evening.
UPDATE: Fox News reports that in exit polling, Cruz gets 53 percent of the evangelical vote, compared to 35 percent for Trump. This is good news for Cruz, who in prior races has usually (somehow) lost the evangelical vote to Trump.
Trump, though, does better in the exit polls than Cruz among independents. His margin with this crowd is 43-38.
Independents are going heavily for Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side.
Meanwhile, according to exit polling, 40 percent of those who voted in the GOP primary are scared of what Trump will do in office. That doesn’t sound like a recipe for victory.
MORE FROM THE EXIT POLLS: If the exit polls are indicative, 51 percent of those who voted in the GOP primary feel “betrayed” by Republican leaders. 46 percent don’t feel that way.
51 percent is a lot of perceived betrayal. However, it is said to be a low number for this primary season.
Trump presumably will win a big share of the vote of those who feel betrayed. But Cruz should get some of it. He’s been railing against “the Washington cartel” throughout the political season.
THE POLLS ARE CLOSED: Bernie Sanders has already been declared the winner on the Democratic side. Sanders has now won six of the seven most recent contests. I sense that if the Dems hadn’t rigged their system, the old socialist might have a decent shot at the nomination.
On the Republican side, the race has not yet been called, but Cruz is said comfortably to be in the lead. I assume this is based at least in significant part on exit polling, which apparently showed him winning by more than 10 points.
The suspense doesn’t end when (if) Cruz is declared the winner. At that point, the focus will shift to his margin of victory and, more importantly, to the vote count in various congressional districts, which will determine delegate allocation.
CRUZ WINS: Fox News has called the race for Sen. Cruz. He leads by more than 20 points, but with only about 3 percent of the vote in. [Note: Cruz’s lead is 22 points with about one-third of the vote in]
THE RACE FOR DELEGATES: The folks at FiveThirtyEight say that Trump appears to be competitive in at least two congressional districts (in the Northern part of the state) and thus has a good chance at avoiding a delegate sweep by Cruz.
CRUZ SPEAKS: Ted Cruz has given his victory speech. Citing his victory in Utah, successes in North Dakota and two congressional districts in Colorado, plus his victory tonight, Cruz claims that the race has turned his way.
I hope so, and maybe it has, but I’m not convinced. Utah is a unique state. The successes in Colorado and North Dakota were very small change.
As for Wisconsin, Cruz benefited from the support of a largely unified political machine. In addition, conservative talk radio in the state was firmly behind him.
Wisconsin is also a Midwest-nice state. Trump, therefore, was at a disadvantage, as he was in Iowa and Minnesota.
For these reason, I am reluctant to make too much of Cruz’s win from a momentum standpoint. I will say, though, that a 20 point (or so) point Trump loss, if that’s what this turns out to be, should cause the tycoon some concern.
The race will soon return to the East. If Trump falters there, especially in New York or Pennsylvania, we can then talk with confidence of the race turning. Tonight, we can say that Cruz had a good win and that Trump had a modest setback.
KUDOS TO SCOTT WALKER: Gov. Walker ran a poor presidential campaign. But he had the good sense to see the writing on the wall early and, accordingly, to exit.
When Walker left the race, he called on the party to unite to prevent a Trump takeover of the party. And when the time came, he rallied Wisconsin around the most viable remaining non-Trump option. Walker has done his best to prevent a Trump takeover and his best wasn’t bad.
By the way, where is Marco Rubio?
STAY CLASSY, DONALD: The Trump campaign has issued a statement about the Wisconsin primary. Among other things, it whines that Trump “withstood the onslaught of the establishment” in that “Lyin’ Ted Cruz had the governor of Wisconsin, many conservative talk radio show hosts, and the entire party apparatus behind him.” The Trump campaign called Cruz a “Trojan horse being used by the party bosses attempting to steal the nomination from Mr. Trump.”
If Cruz is being used, he’s being used by those who consider Trump unfit for the presidency. That’s probably at least 40 percent of Republicans and 60 percent of the electorate as a whole.
THE DELEGATE MATH AFTER TONIGHT: It looks like Cruz will win 36 or 39 of Wisconsin’s 42 delegates and that Trump will win 3 or 6 of them. The uncertainty centers around Wisconsin’s Third Congressional district, which includes La Crosse and Eau Claire.
Trump appears to be leading in this district. Let’s say, then, that he gets 6 delegates tonight.
That’s 19 fewer than he was expected to get in a projection by a group of experts assembled by FiveThirtyEight. That projection had Trump falling 29 delegates short, via caucuses and primaries, of the 1,237 he needs to capture the nomination. Moreover, even before tonight Trump had fallen a little off the pace that had him coming up 29 delegates short.
Thus, if one puts stock in this projection, Trump is now more than 48 delegates off the pace. Note, however, that Trump might be able to make up the shortfall in the weeks following the end of the caucuses/primary process.
So even if Trump’s loss in Wisconsin by what’s looking to be about 15 points (more than any poll indicated) doesn’t shift momentum, it leaves Trump in trouble when it comes to reaching the magic delegate number via the caucuses/primary process.
On this mildly optimistic (from my perspective) note, I will sign off.