By Jim Ellis
April 5, 2016 — Today’s Wisconsin primary looks to field a closer Republican race than was projected last week, as well as a very tight margin for Democrats.
The closing polls find Donald Trump gaining momentum with the last research study from the American Research Group (April 1-3; 400 likely Wisconsin Republican voters) actually showing the national front-runner regaining the lead. This poll may be an outlier, however, as six others still find Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in first place, but with smaller margins.
Wisconsin Republicans apportion their 42 convention delegates through the Winner-Take-All by congressional district system, meaning three delegates awarded to each of the eight district winners. The 15 at-large votes and three Republican National Committee delegates are bound to the statewide winner. Therefore, in what projects as a close statewide finish, the delegate count will be relatively large because the winner will gain an extra 18 votes even if the candidates split the CDs. Most polling also suggests that Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) could take the Madison-anchored 2nd District, thus giving him three delegates.
Cruz taking this state will give more credence to the idea that Republicans will be forced into a contested national convention because projections yielding a Trump first ballot victory predicted him winning Wisconsin.
The American Research Group also stands alone in their Wisconsin Democratic prediction. While the last three public polls all projected close victories for Sen. Bernie Sanders, the latest ARG survey (April 1-3; 400 likely Wisconsin Democratic primary voters) finds Hillary Clinton climbing back to take a one-point, 49-48 percent lead.
The actual outcome isn’t particularly determinative in terms of Democratic delegate apportionment. A close race, irrespective of who finishes first, will largely split the 96 Democratic convention delegates, 10 of which are in the Super Delegate category. Of those latter 10, four have already announced support for Clinton according to news reports.
As the former Secretary of State and US senator closes in on the Democratic nomination, it is important to remember that she needs only one-third of the outstanding delegates in the 22 states and territories yet to vote, including Wisconsin. Getting approximately half of the Badger State allotment will more than satisfy her goals for today.