All eyes are on the Midwest as candidates gear up for the Wisconsin primary on April 5. The Badger State is the next presidential contest on the calendar, with 42 delegates up for grabs.
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The delegate dead heat between leading Republican candidates, billionaire businessman Donald Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, is hitting a fever pitch as both work their own ground games to reel in voters. In the last tally of Republican delegates, Trump has 736 and Cruz has 463, with 943 still available.
Dennis Riley, a political science professor for the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point says the Republican establishment is “hyping the Wisconsin primary well out of proportion.”
“Wisconsin is not necessarily going to be decisive but it will have a substantial impact. If Donald Trump wins Wisconsin clean and gets up to pushing the 50% mark that might be decisive because it will be pretty hard to beat him after that,” said Riley.
He says Wisconsin only recently came on the radar for presidential candidates because the state hasn’t been “a terribly important primary in the last several elections.”
“We are back in the spotlight. Wisconsinites will be pleased that they are being taken seriously for a change. Ted Cruz’s so called ground game will make a difference. He is playing to his strengths which is to pop up everywhere; here he is, here he is and he gives his talks,” said Riley.
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Cruz’s smaller scale events cannot compete with Trump’s grand productions, however Riley says the Texas senator has very strong support of the conservative wing of the Wisconsin Republican Party. On Tuesday, former GOP rival and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker officially endorsed Cruz for president.
“I think Cruz will stay in the game with a lot less credibility if he doesn’t win Wisconsin, this is a very important state to him. He more or less has to win it outright because when the candidates go back east in New York and Pennsylvania he will have a rough time. He needs something solid before that,” said Riley.
If Cruz goes on a losing streak, Riley says he will no longer be in a strong position to become the GOP nominee. On the other hand, Trump may not have the backing he needs in Wisconsin compared to the supporters he had in the southern primaries, which he says might give The Donald some trouble.
“Trump doesn’t have the same angry white guy base here. It’s not that there aren’t any angry white men in Wisconsin, but I don’t think they are as angry or as many of them [as elsewhere in the country]. While Wisconsin’s Republican Party is conservative, it’s still not a southern conservative Republican base,” said Riley.
Wisconsin may “not move the needle much for the delegates needed” to win the GOP nomination but Riley says it does show how every stage of the political process can make an impact on the overall race.
In a recent Fox News national poll, Trump has 41% support from Republican voters and Cruz is a close second with 38%.