The Buzz

Wisconsin loves Cruz and Sanders, the math still adores Trump and Clinton

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz at a primary night campaign event Tuesday in Milwaukee
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz at a primary night campaign event Tuesday in Milwaukee AP

Is this the week the Republicans nominated Paul Ryan for the presidency?

We’re getting ahead of ourselves.

It was your night, Ted Cruz. (And yours, too, Bernie Sanders.)

Cheeseheads, engaged in the rock-’em-sock-’em politics that have engaged Wisconsin during the governorship of Scott Walker, said no to front-runners on Tuesday. Donald Trump had stumbled through two of the toughest weeks of his candidacy and fell badly to Cruz. Hillary Clinton lost yet another in a recent string of contests to Sanders.

The problem for those catch-up candidates is that they’d nearly have to run the table like this to inch into the lead. Polls and demographics from the upcoming primary states say that’s not likely to happen.

Clinton remains on course to wrap up the nomination before her party convention in Philadelphia. Trump remains on course to enter the Republican showdown in Cleveland ahead, but after Wisconsin, his chances of locking down the nomination ahead of that convention slipped significantly.

Trump’s loss in Wisconsin “might be just in time and just enough to prevent the GOP front-runner from winning the party’s presidential nomination,” Politico observed early Wednesday.

A month ago, the betting markets had Trump’s odds of winning the nomination north of 85 percent. By Wednesday morning, that’d tumbled to 54 percent. And bettors see a 75 percent chance of the Republican convention settled on the second ballot or later. A month ago, that was a one-in-four possibility.

Trump’s campaign blamed the loss on Super PAC spending against him and a coalition of conservative talk radio hosts in Wisconsin working as foot soldiers in the #NeverTrump movement. He called Cruz a “Trojan horse” in the service of party bosses.

Trump got dinged by a Politico article that went online early Tuesday saying he’s spent heavily on security details that, at times, seemed to do more to provoke clashes than to quell them. It called his security a “privatized mercenary force” and said his people have directed Secret Service agents to scrub his crowds of protesters.

It noted that among that private security team is former FBI agent Donald Albracht of Olathe.

Trump, predictably, took offense and responded on Twitter by noting that Politico is undergoing its own internal turmoil: “Wow, @Politico is in total disarray with almost everybody quitting. Good news -- bad, dishonest journalists!”

At CNBC, Jake Novak suggested Wisconsin means no one will enter the GOP convention close enough to the nomination to legitimately call dibs. Cruz may not pass Trump, Novak said, but he’ll get closer and closer. A new Reuters poll actually shows Cruz leading for the first time nationwide among likely Republican primary voters. Polls aren’t votes, but this one might suggest the tide has turned against the New York real estate man and reality TV honcho.

Then in Cleveland, the Trump people won’t go for Cruz. Cruz folks won’t give in for Trump. And Wisconsinite and House Speaker Paul Ryan becomes the leading alternative.

“It’s important to understand that, because Cruz’s real value to the party’s chances to win the White House comes from being able to take down Trump,” Novak wrote. “That’s it.”

On the Democratic side, Sanders said momentum had turned in his direction. He bashed media for labeling him a “fringe” candidate early on and noted he’d won seven of the last eight primaries and caucuses.

His speech didn’t recognize the polls suggesting his chances of overcoming Clinton faded slightly even with his win in Wisconsin. He didn’t triumph by enough to seriously close the delegate gap.

The Clinton camp, meantime, been pushing people to look at the transcript of Sanders interview with the New York Daily News — suggesting it shows the democratic socialist from Vermont seemed unready for the breadth and depth of questioning that a prominent presidential candidate must survive. (It echoed Trump’s interviews with Washington Post reporters and earlier with its editorial board, two instances where he seemed unwilling to fill out his campaign rhetoric with command of an underlying policy.)

Scott Canon: 816-234-4754, @ScottCanon

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