Up to this point, polling in Wisconsin had been pretty close to a tie between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, with John Kasich fighting for a distant third place. In recent days, the tie seems to be breaking in favor of Cruz. The latest polling from Marquette University gives Cruz a 10-point advantage over Donald Trump.
First, the latest from CNN:
Ted Cruz holds a wide lead over Donald Trump in Wisconsin less than a week from the state’s primary, and Bernie Sanders has a narrow edge over Hillary Clinton, a new Marquette University Law School poll shows.
Cruz, the Texas senator, tops the Republican field with 40% support, compared to Trump’s 30% and Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s 21%.
Sanders, meanwhile, has 49% backing to Clinton’s 45% in the Democratic race.
This is the highest lead so far for Cruz in Wisconsin, and it’s not even factoring in Trump’s recent exchange with Chris Matthews over whether women should be punished for having abortions:
Donald Trump scrambled to clarify his position on abortion Wednesday after he said women who undergo the procedure should face “some form of punishment” should the practice be outlawed.
Several hours later — after widespread condemnation from Trump’s presidential rivals and even leading anti-abortion groups — he walked back his remarks, releasing a statement in which he said that women who obtain abortions are victims and that doctors who perform the service are the ones who should be punished.
“If Congress were to pass legislation making abortion illegal and the federal courts upheld this legislation, or any state were permitted to ban abortion under state and federal law, the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman,” Trump said. “The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb. My position has not changed — like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions.”
He’s taking heat from both pro-choice and pro-life groups over the comments, which is an odd place to be politically.
If Trump loses Wisconsin, it will strongly narrow his path toward 1,237 delegates. Wisconsin has a decent delegate haul with 42 in a winner-take-most format, which usually turns into winner-take-all since it’s based on congressional districts.
On the other hand, Fortune argues that Trump can afford to lose Wisconsin:
Wisconsin is a pivotal state. But it matters far more to Cruz than it does to Trump.
If Trump wins, it will be another feather in his cap and make his chances of taking nomination that much better. He doesn’t need the win, but it could be something close to a knockout punch to his remaining rivals.
Cruz, though, needs a Wisconsin victory. The only reasonable chance he has of winning is by denying Trump the 1,237 delegates he needs to lock in the nomination and forcing a contested convention in July. If Cruz doesn’t win the delegates in Wisconsin, the math just doesn’t look good.
Trump wants to win Wisconsin. The delegates from the state would make his chances of taking the nomination even greater. But a loss doesn’t undo his bid for the nomination. For Ted Cruz, though, a win in Wisconsin, where polls right now are virtually neck-and-neck, is vital.
The question now is just how many of these “nice to have states” can Trump continue to afford a loss in and still get to 1,237 delegates. If Cruz does catch fire with his growing list of endorsements, and a victory like Wisconsin, I’d say the chances of hitting a contested convention would rise north of 50 percent.
It’s worth noting that the same poll that has Cruz up 10 points also has Bernie Sanders up 5 points over Hillary Clinton.