As the nation's political spotlight zeroes in on the Badger State, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz picked up a major endorsement when Wisconsin governor and former GOP rival Scott Walker backed the firebrand lawmaker's bid for the nomination.
Walker announced on Charlie Sykes' influential talk radio show that he was backing Cruz over front-runner Donald Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich because he believes the Texas senator is best positioned to win the nomination and defeat presumed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
The endorsement comes as Trump planned his first Wisconsin campaign stop in House Speaker Paul Ryan's hometown of Janesville. After the rally, Trump was scheduled to join Kasich and Cruz for a CNN town hall in Milwaukee.
Walker, a two-term Republican who became the first governor in U.S. history to win a recall election in 2012, had indicated his support for Cruz last week, saying he is the only candidate who had a chance to defeat Trump.
When Walker ended his short-lived presidential campaign in September, he called for other candidates to join him in order to make it easier for other candidates to beat the real estate tycoon.
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As a candidate for president, Walker argued that a governor should be the nominee, but he passed over Kasich to support Cruz, who until recently, had failed to garner any support from the GOP establishment.
"It was an easy call for me to support Ted Cruz," Walker said, highlighting Cruz's fights with both Republicans and Democrats. "This is a guy who has been consistent in his positions, and, when push comes to shove, will stand up for the people he represents over the interests in Washington."
Cruz supporters erupted in cheers as Walker's radio interview was played live at a rally outside of Milwaukee.
Trump made clear in a message he posted Monday night on Twitter that he wasn't expecting to land Walker's endorsement.
"After the way I beat Gov. Scott Walker (and Jeb, Rand, Marco and all others) in the presidential primaries, no way he would ever endorse me!" Trump wrote, referring to former presidential candidates, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio.
The billionaire businessman's arrival in Wisconsin was marred by the news that Florida police on Tuesday charged his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, with misdemeanor battery in connection with an incident earlier in the month involving a reporter.
Police in Jupiter, Florida, issued Lewandowski a notice Tuesday to appear before a judge on May 4 on the charge. A surveillance video released by the police appears to show Lewandowski grabbing Michelle Fields, who at the time was a reporter for Breitbart News, as she tried to ask Trump a question during a March 8 campaign event.
Cruz said the Trump campaign's "abusive culture ... (has) no place in our democracy." Kasich's campaign called Lewandowski a "bully."
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.