Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) polls far, far ahead of New York City businessman Donald Trump in Five Thirty Eight‘s prediction for the upcoming Wisconsin GOP primary on Tuesday, April 5. The approaching Wisconsin GOP primary coincides with a rather sudden shift in the media buzz surrounding Donald Trump’s stability as the frontrunner for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, as a contested Republican convention seems more and more likely. Until recently — perhaps until this week — conventional wisdom continued to dictate that Trump would most likely reach the required 1,237 pledged delegates necessary to clinch the nomination. However, with Ted Cruz steadily nipping at his heels, it was first reported that Donald Trump would need a slim majority of the delegates still up for grabs to claim 1,237, then the chasm widened and this week the contested convention went from a glimmer to a full-blown possibility.
Ted Cruz is 95 percent likely to win the Wisconsin GOP primary according to Five Thirty Eight — this does not mean that Cruz will win 95 percent of the vote, just that he is 95 percent likely to take a majority of the primary votes cast in Wisconsin on April 5. MSNBC contributor, former State Department speechwriter and 2016 Rand Paul campaign adviser Elise Jordan reports in Time Magazine that Donald Trump needs a majority of Wisconsin’s 42 delegates on Tuesday in order to clinch 1,237, stating that it’s “pretty much impossible” for him to do so without them. Taken together, these reports indicate that Donald Trump’s seemingly bulletproof lead is all but gone unless the Wisconsin polling is severely faulty.
Ted Cruz polls ahead of Donald Trump in Wisconsin following a nasty dispute between the two candidates about their wives. An anti-Trump Super PAC called Make America Awesome released an ad in late March featuring a professionally shot semi-nude photograph of Donald Trump’s wife, model and businesswoman Melania Trump, with a derogatory caption intended to rile up Mormon voters in the March 22 Utah caucus.
“Meet Melania Trump. Your next First Lady. Or, you could support Ted Cruz on Tuesday.”
Ted Cruz, it is important to note, had nothing to do with the release of this ad because it is illegal for candidates for public office to coordinate with Super PACs under the stipulations of the controversial 2010 Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission (FEC). Despite knowing this as he is a presidential candidate himself, Donald Trump retaliated by retweeting a tweet that compared an unflattering still photograph of Ted Cruz’s wife, Heidi Cruz, to a very flattering still photograph of Melania Trump, along with a caption which read “a picture’s worth a thousand words.”
Elise Jordan’s Time Magazine piece, while joining a deafening chorus of public voices decrying the misogyny of such an act by Trump, posits that it has in fact been Trump’s hatred of women that finally stopped his seemingly unstoppable lead. In addition to the aforementioned retweet, Jordan and others see misogyny in his treatment of former opponent Carly Fiorina, Fox News Channel anchor Megyn Kelly, and former Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields, who accused Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski of forcefully grabbing her arm at a press conference and leaving her bruised. Fields shared a picture of her bruises on Twitter and her battery at the hands of Lewandowski was later corroborated by videotape, yet Trump still calls her a liar and refuses to fire Lewandowski, who has been formally charged with battery.
Ted Cruz is widely reported to have superior organization when it comes to delegate selection, and Five Thirty Eight‘s Nate Silver believes that the delegates who will be selected to vote at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July are highly unlikely to be favorable to Donald Trump. Therefore, if no candidate clinches 1,237 delegates at the conclusion of the primary and caucus races, which is now an incredibly likely scenario, Donald Trump needs to hope that one of two situations occurs: option one is that the nomination is decided in the time period between the last primary race and the convention, during which the candidates will work to woo uncommitted delegates and get the 1,237 hammered out before the convention, to avoid the PR disaster of a contested convention.
Donald Trump’s option two if this fails is to win the first ballot at a contested GOP convention in Cleveland — because if he loses, pledged delegates will be allowed to switch their votes. If they dislike Donald Trump as strongly as pundits and prognosticators like Nate Silver think they do, the delegates who were bound to Donald Trump are likely to switch to Ted Cruz or to the only other remaining candidate, Ohio Governor John Kasich — who is not favored to win overall due to his incredibly poor performance in the primary and caucus races.
Ted Cruz is likely to be the 2016 Republican nominee if option two falls through, and many believe that Donald Trump will respond by launching a third-party run in the fall, all but guaranteeing the White House for the Democratic nominee.
[Image courtesy of Scott Olson/Getty Images]