POLITICS

Wisconsin is do-or-die moment if Ted Cruz hopes to catch Donald Trump

Presidential candidate U.S. Senator Ted Cruz in downtown Janesville, Wis., on March 24, 2016.

Presidential candidate U.S. Senator Ted Cruz in downtown Janesville, Wis., on March 24, 2016.  (AP)

Wisconsin voters are known for taking their role in the state primary seriously, and they’re highly energized about general elections, as well.

They boast among the highest turnout numbers in the presidential elections, according to the New York Times. 

The primary on Tuesday is also significant for the presidential candidates seeking to be their party’s nominee, particularly for GOP contenders Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

If Cruz, a senator from Texas, wins all of Wisconsin's 42 delegates, it will add to his count and, more important, credibility to his argument that his candidacy is still viable. Trump would need to win 57 percent of those remaining to clinch the GOP nomination before the convention. So far, Trump has won 48 percent of the delegates awarded.

To win a prolonged convention fight, a candidate would need support from the individuals selected as delegates. The process of selecting those delegates is tedious, and will test the mettle of Trump's slim campaign operation.

If Trump wins, or if Cruz doesn't win by a large enough margin, it could help the real estate mogul at a time when the exclamation mark that has punctuated his run through the primaries has begun to morph into a question mark.

“Trump needs to regain some momentum after a disastrous week,” said Brian Walsh, a Republican strategist who does not have ties to any candidate, in an interview with the Times. “Cruz needs to demonstrate that he can win a big-state primary besides Texas.”

Wisconsin’s population is predominately white.

It is home to about 370,000 Hispanics, making them 6 percent of Wisconsin’s population. Some 42 percent of the state’s Latinos are eligible to vote, according to the Pew Research Center.

The state's Latinos, though a small part of the overall population, are vocal. They held a rally titled A Day Without Latinos in the state’s capital in February to protest two state bills that they denounced as being anti-immigrant.

Some of the Latinos involved in the protest said this election is particularly important for the community.

“We’re canvassing in Racine and Milwaukee to get out the vote out," said Cristine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director for Voces de la Frontera (Voices From the Border), the local group who organized A Day Without Latinos. "We have about 30 adults in Milwaukee's low-income African-American and Latino neighborhoods. We’re mobilized and energized, but we have to harness that energy."

"I think the Latino community shines when they’re pulling together,” Neumann-Ortiz said.

A college junior from Mexico, Nury Plascencia, says she decided to become a U.S. citizen chiefly to vote against Trump, and now she's involved in the get-out-the-vote effort.

"We’re promoting voting today and hoping Donald Trump doesn’t win in Wisconsin,” Plascencia, 21, told Fox News Latino.

Cruz, who tends to do better in states that hold caucuses rather than those with primaries, has led Trump in polls of GOP voters in Wisconsin. His lead, however, has narrowed to about five points in recent days from 10 points earlier.

"We are seeing victory after victory after victory in the grassroots," Cruz said during a campaign stop Monday. "What we are seeing in Wisconsin is the unity of the Republican Party manifesting."

Trump seems to fare better with more rural, blue-collar and less educated voters in the state, and worse among better-educated Republicans from more suburban areas, according to the Times.

What remains to be seen, the Times noted, is whether the reaction to him among those suburban voters – who are particularly averse to brash, aggressive political candidates – is repeated elsewhere in the country, specifically the highly suburbanized states of Maryland, New York and Connecticut where the campaign heads next.

Cruz headed into Tuesday's contest with the backing of much of the state's Republican leaders, including Gov. Scott Walker, but Trump made a spirited final push in the state and predicted a "really, really big victory."

"If we do well here, it's over," he said. "If we don't win here, it's not over."

Complicating the primary landscape for both Cruz and Trump is the continuing candidacy of John Kasich. The Ohio governor's only victory has come in his home state, but he is still picking up delegates who would otherwise inch Trump closer to the nomination or help Cruz catch up.

The reality TV star has grown increasingly frustrated with the governor and has joined Cruz in calling for Kasich to end his campaign. Kasich cast Trump's focus on him as a sign that he's in the best position to win over the businessman's supporters.

"They're not really his people," Kasich said. "They're Americans who are ... most worried about their kids, [and] are their kids going to have a good life?"

On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders seems to be in favorable territory in Wisconsin, with its tradition of progressive politics. But the senator from Vermont lags so far behind former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the overall delegate count that a victory in the state may not figure prominently in terms of the campaign's end game.

Sanders has a steep hill to climb. He must win some 67 percent of the remaining vote to win the majority of pledged delegates, according to an estimate by the Associated Press. So far, he's only winning 37 percent. If he doesn’t get two-thirds of the primary vote in Wisconsin, he’d have an even higher percentage to aim for in the remaining states.

Among Democrats, Clinton has 1,243 delegates to Sanders' 980 based on primaries and caucuses. When including superdelegates, or party officials who can back any candidate of their choosing, Clinton holds an even wider lead — 1,712 to Sanders' 1,011. It takes 2,383 delegates to win the Democratic nomination.

In Wisconsin, 86 pledged Democratic delegates are up for grabs, as are 10 superdelegates.

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 a similar number of delegates for each.

Carrie-Ann Todd, a 39-year-old mother who is saddled with student debt, said she voted for Sanders on Tuesday given his efforts to address the cost of college.

"I'm paying more on my student loans than I am on my cars," Todd told the AP. "I don't know if he'll get any support if he gets into the White House, but it's worth a shot."

The Associated Press contributed to this story. Fox News Latino staff writer Rebekah Sager also contributed to this report.

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