Republican Ted Cruz captured a crucial victory Tuesday in Wisconsin, a significant step in his efforts to block front-runner Donald Trump’s path to the presidential nomination and push the GOP contest toward a rare convention fight. In the Democratic race, Bernie Sanders hoped to extend his string of victories over front-runner Hillary Clinton.
Trump’s defeat came amid one of his worst periods of his campaign, a brutal stretch that highlighted his weaknesses with women and raised questions about his policy depth. While the billionaire businessman still leads the Republican field, Cruz and other anti-Trump forces hope Wisconsin marks a turning point in the chaotic GOP nominating contest.
Exit polls in the state underscored the concerns about Trump that are surging through some corners of the Republican Party. Nearly 4 in 10 GOP voters in Wisconsin said they were scared about what Trump would do as president.
For Sanders, Wisconsin was favorable territory, with an overwhelming white electorate and liberal pockets of voters. A victory would give the Vermont senator a burst of momentum, but still leave him trailing Clinton in the delegate count.
Even if Sanders wins in Wisconsin, he’s unlikely to gain much ground. Because Democrats award delegates proportionally, a narrow victory by either candidate on Tuesday would mean that both Sanders and Clinton would get a similar number of delegates.
Heading into Tuesday’s voting, Clinton had 1,243 delegates to Sanders’ 980 based on primaries and caucuses. When including superdelegates, the party officials who can back any candidate, Clinton holds a much wider lead — 1,712 to Sanders’ 1,011. It takes 2,383 delegates to win the Democratic nomination.
Clinton’s campaign has cast her lead as nearly insurmountable. Yet Sanders’ continued presence in the race has become an irritant for the former secretary of state, keeping her from turning her attention to the general election.
According to exit polls, Sanders has excited voters in Wisconsin, with more than half of Democratic primary-goers saying the senator inspires them more about the future of the country. But three-quarters of Democratic voters say Clinton has realistic policies.
The exit polls were conducted by Edison Research for The Associated Press.
Trump has battled a series of campaign controversies in the lead-up to Wisconsin. Wisconsin’s Republican establishment, including Gov. Scott Walker, has also campaigned aggressively against the businessman.