Milwaukee, Apr 4: Donald Trump and Ted Cruz made spirited final pitches today to Wisconsin voters, who will cast ballots tomorrow in a Republican primary that both consider a key step in the race for president. After tomorrow, there's a two-week lull before the next important voting, in New York.
Trump is facing pressure on multiple fronts following a difficult week marked by his controversial comments, reversals and rare moments of contrition. While his past remarks on topics like Mexican immigrants have drawn a backlash, even he appeared to recognize the damage caused by a series of missteps in the lead-up to Wisconsin.
Those included re-tweeting an unflattering photo of Cruz's wife and a series of contradictory comments on abortion that managed to draw condemnation from both abortion rights activists and opponents. While Trump is the only Republican with a realistic path to clinching the nomination ahead of the Republican convention, a big loss in Wisconsin would greatly reduce his chances of reaching the needed 1,237 delegates before then.
A big win for Trump would give him more room for error down the stretch. In US primaries voters in each state select delegates pledged to candidates who then vote at the parties' national conventions over the summer. Trump is facing pressure on two fronts.
In Wisconsin, he has been battered by negative ads. The state's top Republican advertiser has been Our Principles PAC, which pumped almost USD 1.3 million into anti-Trump ads. The Club for Growth, which has endorsed Cruz, is spending USD 800,000 on ads that promote voting for Cruz not John Kasich as the best way to ensure a Trump defeat.
Also, the state's Republican establishment, including Gov Scott Walker and some of its most influential conservative talk radio hosts, have lined up to support Cruz. At the same time, Trump's campaign has been outmaneuvered by Cruz in some early states where the campaigns are working to ensure that the delegates who attend the convention this summer are loyal to them.
Trump acknowledged his frustrations on CBS yesterday in discussing a meeting with members of the Republican National Committee. "And I did look at my people. I said, 'Well, wait a minute, folks. You know, we should've maybe done better,'" he said. "Except I also said, 'I won the state.' And I think there's a real legal consequence to winning a state and not getting as many delegates."