On Tuesday evening, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) blew out 2016 Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump in Wisconsin. As of 10:30 PM ET, Cruz had won well over 50 percent of the vote. Trump is expected to win just six of 42 delegates. This came within hours of the Trump campaign declaring the possibility of a big comeback in Wisconsin.
So, what does all of this mean? Here are six takeaways:
Trump Does Indeed Have A Ceiling. The field has consolidated, but Trump isn’t walking away with huge margins of victory. In fact, in the three states since the field winnowed to three, Trump has lost two (Utah and Wisconsin) while winning one (Arizona). Granted, we’re about to head into states far more favorable to Trump, including New York and Pennsylvania. But the notion that he’s consolidating support for a breeze to the nomination simply isn’t true. There have been 31 states thus far holding caucuses and primaries. Trump hasn’t won a majority in any of them.
Trump Isn’t Walking Away With Working Class Voters Across The Board. Exit polls showed that Cruz beat Trump in Wisconsin even among voters with a high school degree or less. As education increased, Trump’s percentages dropped. This is consistent with national findings that Trump is increasingly unpopular with the white working class, his strongest constituency.
Cruz’s Base Is Expanding. Nate Silver puts it this way:
As a sign of Cruz’s potentially expanding base of support, he won 43 percent of the non-evangelical vote tonight in Wisconsin, according to exit polls, beating Trump (37 percent) and Kasich (17 percent).
Conservatives Dislike Trump. Trump won independents in Wisconsin by a small margin, 43 percent to 38 percent, but Cruz won 53 percent of the Republican vote to 34 percent for Trump. The California primary is closed. That won’t help Trump, who draws his support from the most left-leaning elements of the Republican Party base. Trump won moderate/liberal voters by a margin of 41 percent to 29 percent over Cruz in Wisconsin.
We Won’t See “Presidential” Trump Anytime Soon. While Trump tells friendly media faces that he’ll start acting presidential soon in order to remind Americans that he’s fit for office, there’s been no indicator of that so far. After losing in Wisconsin, Trump issued this incredible statement:
Donald J. Trump withstood the onslaught of the establishment yet again. Lyin’ Ted Cruz had the Governor of Wisconsin, many conservative talk radio show hosts, and the entire party apparatus behind him. Not only was he propelled by the anti-Trump Super PAC’s spending countless millions of dollars on false advertising against Mr. Trump, but he was coordinating with his own Super PAC’s (which is illegal) who totally control him. Ted Cruz is worse than a puppet – he is a Trojan horse, being used by the party bosses attempting to steal the nomination from Mr. Trump. We have total confidence that Mr. Trump will go on to win in New York, where he holds a substantial lead in all the polls, and beyond. Mr. Trump is the only candidate who can secure the delegates needed to win the Republican nomination and ultimately defeat Hillary Clinton, or whomever is the Democratic nominee, in order to Make America Great Again.
He loses a primary, and promptly accuses his opponent – without evidence – of violating federal law and being “worse than a puppet.” This is the campaign of a small petulant child, and it’s wearing thin. The last three weeks have been terrible for Trump because he has no self-control. If his statement says anything, we're unlikely to see self-control now.
If Trump Doesn’t Pick Up The Pace, No Way He Wins A Majority. Trump was projected by FiveThirtyEight.com to finish just out of the money at the convention – the experts there thought he would finish with just over 1200 delegates. Their math had him finishing much better than he did in Wisconsin. If Trump doesn’t pick up the pace, he could be in serious trouble. The increasingly desperate tone of his campaign suggests that Trump knows it, too. The problem is this: if you’re always turned up to an 11, where do you go when things get desperate?