By Jim Ellis
April 7, 2016 — Both senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) handily exceeded expectations in Wisconsin Tuesday night. Cruz, in particular, had an impressive night, hovering around the 50 percent mark throughout the counting and finished just a point under the majority threshold. Donald Trump notched only 34 percent, while Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) came up way short with just 14 percent.
Wisconsin is a Winner-Take-All by congressional district state, and it is in the all-important delegate count where Cruz came close to running the table. Except for the two western state congressional districts, 3 (Rep. Ron Kind; D-La Crosse) and 7 (Rep. Sean Duffy; R-Wausau), the Texas lawmaker swept the state including the Madison-anchored 2nd District where Kasich appeared to be favored going into the election. Therefore, Sen. Cruz scored a 36-6 delegate apportionment victory over Trump, with Kasich being shut out.
The result should be seen as a significant setback for Trump, just as it is becoming clear that he will face a serious degradation in delegate support if the convention deadlocks and multiple ballots are required.
Reports emanating from states such as Louisiana, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Dakota and Arizona suggest that the delegate composition from these places, once the members are released according to their individual state law or party rule, will back away from Trump and head toward Cruz or possibly another candidate if others can be introduced into the process at the convention.
Our own delegate apportionment projections find Trump falling 24 delegate votes behind his quota for Wisconsin, which dampens even further his chances of scoring a first ballot victory. He is now forced to rebound strongly in his home state of New York on April 19 (scoring as many as 80 of the 95 New York delegates) and then in the eastern regional primary (Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island) scheduled for April 26.
Sanders also finished stronger than expected in defeating Hillary Clinton. He notched just over 56 percent of the vote, but that allowed him to claim only 53 percent of the Wisconsin delegate base. Needing only one-third of the remaining delegates in the 21 states yet to vote, Clinton’s approximate 47 percent share still met her quota even though she suffered a stinging statewide defeat.
Sanders’ Wisconsin victory was his sixth in a row over Clinton, and 16th overall win against the front-runner’s 20 first-place finishes. Once again, the familiar voting pattern we’ve seen throughout the Democratic campaign was present in Wisconsin. That is, Sanders does well in white, rural and suburban regions, while Clinton dominates in the cities and with minority voters. She won just three of the state’s 72 counties last night, but did carry the state’s largest, Milwaukee County, which houses the city of Milwaukee and its relatively heavy urban African-American precincts.
Turnout also followed a familiar pattern, with Republicans up about 30 percent over 2012 turnout, while Democrats fell about 100,000 voters behind the GOP and again lower when compared to their last open presidential primary contest back in 2008.