Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders scored big victories in Wisconsin’s presidential primaries Tuesday, dampening Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s hopes of wrapping up the race any time soon — and putting heavy pressure on the front-runners to recapture the momentum in contests later this month.
Both Cruz and Sanders charged out of Wisconsin claiming momentum was turning in their favour. Sanders, who notched his sixth victory in the last seven state contests, won all but three of the Badger State’s 72 counties.
“And we have won almost all of them with overwhelming, landslide numbers,” Sanders told an ebullient crowd of supporters Tuesday night.
Sanders was speaking in Wyoming, which holds a caucus contest this weekend. But the next big primary will be in New York on April 19, and Sanders has vowed to take on Clinton in her adopted home state.
Cruz also pointed to his win Tuesday as a sign the tides are turning against Republican front-runner Trump, who faced one of the roughest weeks of his campaign going into the primary.
“Tonight is a turning point,” Cruz declared at a rally in Milwaukee. “It is a rallying cry. It is a call from the hard-working men and women of Wisconsin to the people of America: we have a choice. A real choice.”
Yet Cruz, despite winning in Wisconsin and outmaneuvering Trump lately in the grueling battle for delegates, still faces challenging terrain in the weeks ahead. Trump has a clear lead in New York polls, and his campaign claimed “total confidence” they would win that race.
Trump’s campaign also put out a biting statement Tuesday night that said Cruz was “worse than a puppet— he is a Trojan horse, being used by the party bosses attempting to steal the nomination from Mr Trump.”
Even if Trump holds his ground in New York, however, Cruz’s Wisconsin win only increases the odds that the Republican Party will hold its first open convention in four decades this July, a scenario Trump seemed to be referring to.
Any candidate would need 1,237 delegates to clinch the nomination before then, and Cruz’s Wisconsin victory makes that number very difficult for Trump to obtain.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Cruz led with 48 percent of the vote to Trump’s 35 percent. Ohio Gov. John Kasich was trailing far behind on 14 percent of the vote.
Exit polls showed disquiet about Trump among Wisconsin Republicans. In the Fox News survey of 1,532 primary voters, 58 percent of respondents said they were either concerned or scared about the prospect of Trump being elected president. More worryingly for the Trump campaign, 37 percent said they would not vote for him if he faced Clinton in November’s general election.
Of the Democratic side, returns showed Sanders with 56 percent of the vote to Clinton’s 43 percent with 99 percent of precincts reporting.
The victory helps fuel Sanders’ argument that the Democratic primary is far from over, even as front-runner Clinton tries to turn her attention to the general election.