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• Trump’s support didn’t change, the race did
• Hillary’s hand hovers over the panic button
• Burritos are loaded with electrolytes
TRUMP’S SUPPORT DIDN’T CHANGE, THE RACE DID
Donald Trump didn’t lose Wisconsin. Ted Cruz won it. Trump ran as well or better in Wisconsin than he did in New Hampshire, South Carolina and a slew of other states that were once deemed big wins and evidence of his inexorable march to the nomination.
It’s just that this time, it wasn’t enough.
For all of the folderol about Trump’s ‘worst week ever’ and all the claptrap about his ‘imploding’ campaign, Trump didn’t see any slide in the Wisconsin polls from February until Election Day. Trump did just about as well as the polls suggested he would. He gave no ground and anyway, you can’t implode something that was never built in the first place.
Trump’s 35 percent in Wisconsin ended up with him staying in seclusion and his campaign issuing a blurted press release about a puppet, a Trojan horse and a criminal accusation against another candidate. But 35 percent in New Hampshire produced Trump bounding like Tigger onto the stage for an ebullient speech and headlines about his ‘stunning’ performance. Why?
Because he lost, of course.
As it turns out, 35 percent was enough to win in New Hampshire but left him 13 points behind the leader in Wisconsin. Trump didn’t change, but the race did.
If the chattering class tells you that Trump’s string of bad days – the campaign manager, the delegate poaching, the policy stumbles – hurt the GOP frontrunner with Wisconsin voters, they’re wrong.
Nothing in Wisconsin’s results showed any change in Trump’s numbers or trajectory. He has had a few grand slams in states where he cleared 40 percent, notably Massachusetts, Florida and Nevada, but taken together, Trump has won 37 percent of the vote in the primaries held so far.
Similar shares were enough to win in Illinois and Michigan last month but not enough in Wisconsin now. And if Wisconsin had voted a month earlier, it would have been enough too.
What’s changed is not Trump or his voters but rather the willingness of the rest of the party to coalesce behind another candidate and engage in strategic voting, in this case, for Cruz. In a thinned field, Trump is facing harsher math.
That’s not to say his recent woes haven’t been important. Trump’s misfires, particularly on abortion and nuclear warfare, surely helped convince many moderate Cruz skeptics in Wisconsin to overcome their reservations. And there’s no doubt that the general election disasters foretold by recent polls helped too. But just not as it relates to his core voters.
Now, Trump’s response to his recent struggles and this most lopsided primary loss yet could cost him. If Trump stays sulky – if the Tigger of New Hampshire has been fully replaced by the backtracking no-show of Wisconsin and the two weeks prior – then he will start to lose his people and the setbacks could worsen. It’s hard to fake mojo, but that’s what winning candidates have to do.
And now, facing the near-certainty of a bitter floor fight in Cleveland at the GOP convention, it may be harder for Trump to find his inner Tigger again. Cheerfully soldiering on for two weeks until an expected win in New York will be harder for Trump and his team knowing there’s no decisive victory on the horizon.
Plus, the prospect of that uncertain slog will not only dispirit some of his supporters, it will keep the clamps on any of the talk of a broad party capitulation of the kind we heard after Trump’s March 15 victories. If he can’t get there on his own and things are getting worse, not better, then the premium for falling in line is eliminated.
But there’s the danger of voter fatigue on the other side. It remains to be seen whether the cohesion and strategic voting we saw in Wisconsin carry forward to the remaining 16 contests. Will potential Cruz voters in the Northeast switch to John Kasich to deny Trump in key districts? Will suburban moderates out West still turn out to vote Cruz and stop Trump in May and June?
Wisconsin showed it was possible. We will see if it can be repeated.
But just bear in mind that when the members of the political press tell you that the man they named the crown prince of the GOP a month ago is now a loser, it’s still the same 35 percent.
[GOP delegate count: Trump 743; Cruz 517; Kasich 143 (1,237 needed to win)]
WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE…
NatGeo:“It’s a two-mile trudge through forested, swampy ground to reach Point Rosee, a narrow, windswept peninsula stretching from southern Newfoundland into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Last June, a team of archaeologists was drawn to this remote part of Canada by a modern-day treasure map: satellite imagery revealing ground features that could be evidence of past human activity. The treasure they discovered here—a stone hearth used for working iron—could rewrite the early history of North America and aid the search for lost Viking settlements described in Norse sagas centuries ago. To date, the only confirmed Viking site in the New World is L’Anse aux Meadows, a thousand-year-old way station discovered in 1960 on the northern tip of Newfoundland…[which] proved that the Viking sagas weren’t entirely fiction. A second settlement at Point Rosee would suggest that the Norse exploration of the region wasn’t a limited undertaking, and that archaeologists should expand their search for evidence of other settlements, built 500 years before the arrival of Christopher Columbus.”
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Real Clear Politics Averages
National GOP nomination: Trump 40.3 percent; Cruz 33.2 percent; Kasich 20.5 percent
National Dem nomination: Clinton 49.7 percent; Sanders 43.8 percent
General Election: Clinton vs. Trump: Clinton +10.8 points
Generic Congressional Vote: Republicans +0.5
HILLARY’S HAND HOVERS OVER THE PANIC BUTTON
Sen. Bernie Sanders had a very good night on Tuesday. Not only did he beat Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin, but he actually won the night. Unlike the surprising, yet narrow, win in Michigan last month, Wisconsin voters came out full force for Sanders giving him a 13-point whupping of his competitor.
FiveThirtyEight’s election expert Nate Silver said a few weeks ago that Sanders would need a 16-point lead over Clinton to be on the road to tie her for delegates, and 13 isn’t that far off. Yet, it’s still off.
Despite the Vermont senator’s increasingly strong performances throughout the primary season, the proportional allocation of delegates and the pledged superdelegates pose a major problem for him. Unless he were to have the same high yielding results in the upcoming contests as he did Tuesday (which in states like Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York all with racially diverse cities seems unlikely) he really doesn’t have a way to breach Clinton’s lead.
Sanders’ Wisconsin win is an outright win, but the narrative coming out of Tuesday is less about a victory for him and more about a growing problem for Clinton.
By this point, Clinton figured she’d have the nomination pretty well locked up and start pivoting her focus more towards the general election. We saw a bit of this in her ad released in New York ahead of their April 19 primary where she indirectly knocked Republican frontrunner Donald Trump.
But momentum is a powerful thing and the Vermont senator certainly has that. Even if he can’t get the math together for the nomination he can continue to do damage to Clinton’s already fragile reputation and likability while embittering his supporters to her along the way.
So far, the story on the Democratic side has been: Clinton is the nominee, she needs to go through the motions of a candidate. But these last few contests have felt more like actual fights than obligatory motions.
Again, math is on her side, and it’s been widely reported that superdelegates are extremely wary of switching their allegiance. But if the New York primary is even slightly close some of those delegates may begin to be more open to a Sanders’ switch.
Or at the very least, the doubts of Clinton’s inevitability start to swirl, something she cannot afford. Especially with the lethal blow of a possible indictment heading her way this summer.
Clinton’s challenge is to raise a sufficient alarm among her core supporters to get them to the polls and put this race to bed without inducing the kind of panic that could break her already cracked aura on inevitability.
[Dem delegate count: Clinton 1748; Sanders 1058 (2,383 needed to win)]
BURRITOS ARE LOADED WITH ELECTROLYTES
WVLT: “Imagine you’re in the home stretch of the marathon and you start to feel a little hungry and thirsty. You could do what most do and reach for some water or energy gels, or you could try the alternative - a burrito and some beer. That's what one runner at the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon opted for at about mile 20 of the race, and Trailhead Beer Market has the picture to prove it! The photo was shared on Trailhead Beer Market's Facebook page of a runner at the bar savoring a burrito and getting served a beer…Then the runner was onto Island Home for the last few miles of the race…The runner has been identified by the executive director of the marathon as Jared Nelson of Knoxville. According to the race website, Nelson crossed the finish line at 6 hours and 6 minutes.”
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily "Fox News First" political news note and hosts "Power Play," a feature video series, on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including "The Kelly File," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace." He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.