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Wisconsin: Trump vs. Cruz

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Brookfield, Wis. — One week before Wisconsin’s presidential primary, Ted Cruz stood before hundreds of supporters in this Milwaukee suburb and cast the contest in sweeping terms, framing it as a “battleground” where forces opposed to Donald Trump could turn the momentum of 2016 campaign against him.

“The entire country is focused on the state of Wisconsin,” Cruz said. “And right now in the state of Wisconsin it’s neck and neck — Donald Trump and I are effectively tied.”

Cruz was underselling his own support in the state, where he had already pulled comfortably ahead of Trump, according to private and public polling. But he was right about one thing: Wisconsin is being watched by Trump’s adversaries around the country. And what they see is not just an opportunity to defeat the Republican front-runner on April 5, but a formula for denying him the nomination outright.

Trump’s negatives are sky-high, particularly in populous southeastern Wisconsin, in part because of relentless attacks on his candidacy from the state’s influential conservative talk-radio hosts. Two outside groups, the Club for Growth and Our Principles PAC, amplified that assault by blanketing Wisconsin’s airwaves with anti-Trump ads. The state’s GOP establishment, led by Governor Scott Walker, reacted to the winnowed primary field by rallying around Cruz as the best bet to topple Trump. And swarms of pro-Cruz volunteers and super-PAC workers descended on the state, seizing on the lull in the primary schedule to out-organize the competition as they had done in neighboring Iowa.

“It was a perfect storm, if you will,” says Matt Batzel, the Wisconsin-based head of American Majority, a conservative activist group. “A lot of people talked about Trump having a ceiling of 30 to 35 percent in other states. But we actually see that in Wisconsin, and it’s because of those factors working together.”

The result: Cruz has pulled away from a battered Trump over the last two weeks and is poised for a resounding victory in Tuesday’s primary. “We’re going to have a solid win,” says state senator Duey Stroebel, Cruz’s Wisconsin chairman. “He’ll beat Trump by at least eight points, easy.”

Indeed, Cruz’s “neck and neck” talk did not reflect his team’s bullishness, which was detectable even before a crucial 24-hour stretch last week seemed to seal Trump’s fate. Tuesday afternoon, hours after Walker’s endorsement, Trump’s campaign manager was charged with battery against a female reporter. The next day, Trump stepped into fresh controversy after saying that if abortion were illegal, then women who have abortions should face “some form of punishment.” (Cruz pounced; Trump later reversed himself.) Capping it off, Wisconsin’s top pollster, Marquette Law School’s Charles Franklin, released a survey Wednesday showing Cruz up ten points on Trump, 40 percent to 30 percent, and Trump’s negatives surging statewide. (Marquette’s previous poll in mid February also showed Trump at 30 percent, which at the time was enough for a ten-point lead over a larger, still-fractured Republican field.)


Source: Tim Alberta, nationalreview.com