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GOP candidates push for votes ahead of Wisconsin primary

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," March 25, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

CHARLES PAYNE, GUEST HOST:  That`s Ted Cruz.  He`s live in Green Bay, Wisconsin, right now.  That state could be a game-changer in a GOP race. The primary is on April 5.  

To former adviser to former President George W. Bush Karl Rove.  

Karl, the last couple polls I`m seeing now have Ted Cruz ahead.  Slight -- it`s a small lead, but he seems like he has got momentum in Wisconsin.  

KARL ROVE, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH:  Yes.  This has been a tough state for Trump from the beginning.  Early on, it was dominated by Scott Walker.  His withdrawal was taken as sort of a subtle attack on Trump and Trump really doesn`t have as much purchase as he had in some of these other Midwestern states.  

You`re right.  There have only been two recent polls, two polls in March. One of them had -- the most recent has Cruz 36, Trump 35.  The one before that has -- a few days before that has Cruz at 36 and Trump at 31.  So it`s a neck-and-neck battle.  

But if it stays that way, it could end up being a chunk of delegates for Ted Cruz if he comes out in front, given the anomalies of how delegates are chosen in that state.  

PAYNE:  And to your point, I have seen before the last primaries and caucuses in Arizona and Utah, where Donald Trump could get delegates before the convention.  Some of it had him winning some delegates in Utah.  He was shut out.  And some of the math so many people who have put together these formulas think he is going to win a bunch of delegates in Wisconsin and even Pennsylvania.

And now we see signs that even Kasich is starting to gain some pretty good traction there as well.  If that were the case, if Cruz won Wisconsin and Kasich fared well in Pennsylvania, would that guarantee a contested convention?  

ROVE:  Oh, absolutely.  I think it would.  I think you`re right.

Think about it.  Trump has 47 percent of the delegates so far; 53 percent are not his.  In order for him to get to 50 percent, he has to win 55 percent of the roughly 40 percent of the delegates who are left and that`s an uphill climb.  

Let`s take Wisconsin as an example.  Fifteen are awarded statewide to the statewide winner.  Assume that that`s Cruz, who today leads in those polls. Now, 24 are split among the eight congressional districts in the state. There`s an ace reporter for The Milwaukee Journal named Craig Gilbert.  

And he has had a look at some data.  I have had a look at some private data.  And it suggests that Trump`s support is concentrated in the 8th District, which is Green Bay, and the 7th District, which is about roughly the quarter of the state, the northwestern corner of the state, about a quarter of its territory, but one-eighth of its population.  

If that`s true, assume Cruz wins statewide and Trump takes those two districts and Cruz takes the rest, then the delegates would be split 33-6. Even if Trump two -- won half of the districts in the state, that would give him 12 and give 27 to Cruz.  So, yes, this is a key state that could really cause a stumbling block for Donald Trump.  

PAYNE:  Karl, I read two reports today that lead me to believe that this whole contested convention thing will be a donnybrook, but also perhaps the importance of having some sort of establishment organization.  

Apparently, even though he lost in Louisiana, Ted Cruz continues to gain delegates there somehow.  I`m not sure of the mechanism he`s using to achieve that.  And now there are reports that Donald Trump is putting together a team so if there`s a contested convention, he can come out the nominee.  

ROVE:  Yes.  

Well, look, first of all, remember, there`s a difference between electing -- apportioning the delegates out and then selecting delegates themselves.  And what has happened is, is that people, a candidate will get a certain number of delegates that are apportioned to him.  Let`s say in Louisiana that Trump got, let`s say, 30 delegates.  

But those 30 delegates then are selected at a combination of state and congressional district conventions, and those people while legally bound to be for him for a certain number of ballots, may or may not be Trump supporters.  Most of the delegates for the national convention today are selected in this manner.  

They`re not chosen by the candidate.  They`re required to support the candidate, but they`re elected by party regulars who show up at these conventions.  They are bound for a certain number of delegates.  But 57 percent of the delegates are free to vote for whom they want after the first delegate -- 80 percent after the second.  

PAYNE:  Before I let you go, Karl, don`t you think that is why people are upset in this country, because of something like that?  

ROVE:  Well, look, we have not had direct democracy.  If we had a requirement that you had to vote for whoever you were committed to at the beginning of this and that the guy with the most votes, not the majority won, Abraham Lincoln would not have been president.  

He didn`t -- he went into the 1860 convention running a distant second behind William Seward.  And Seward`s people after a ballot or two ballots decided, you know what, Lincoln is a better candidate and went to him.  We have had for 160 years a requirement that to be the nominee of the Republican Party, you have to get a majority.

And now Donald Trump and his supporters are saying, we don`t like that rule.  Let`s change it in the middle of the contest to benefit our guy and throw out 160 years in which you had to have a majority.  

PAYNE:  Well, I got to tell you, people are going to be up in arms, period.  

Karl Rove, thanks a lot.

ROVE:  And no matter what happens, they`re going to be up in arms.  This is going to be one butt-ugly convention, as they say.  

PAYNE:  All right.  And we couldn`t even beep that out.

(LAUGHTER)

PAYNE:  Have a great weekend, Karl.  

ROVE:  Thanks.

END

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