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Will Cruz's Wisconsin Win Block Trump's Path?

The Texas senator prevailed in Wisconsin, as Bernie Sanders added to his string of recent victories over Hillary Clinton.

Jim Young / Reuters

If Donald Trump isn’t the Republican Party’s presidential nominee come November, his loss in Wisconsin on Tuesday may be remembered as his Waterloo. That is, of course, a reference to Napoleon’s final battle, and not to the tiny town in Jefferson County—though Trump was headed for a loss there as well.

Across the Badger State, Senator Ted Cruz beat Trump handily. Cruz still badly trails Trump in the delegate count, but by taking the lion’s share of Wisconsin’s delegates, the Texan makes it harder for Trump to reach the magic threshold of 1,237  delegates he needs to clinch the nomination. That, in turn, means the GOP is more likely to go its convention in Cleveland with its nominee undecided.

On the Democratic side, Senator Bernie Sanders notched another win over Hillary Clinton. The result is a moral boost for Sanders’s campaign, but thanks to Democrats’ proportional representation rules, he splits the state’s delegates with Clinton. That leaves him still trailing her by around 200 pledged delegates. (With superdelegates included, her lead is much larger.)

The results were in line with polling ahead of the primaries, which had mostly shown Sanders and Cruz ahead. Wisconsin proved fertile territory for the challengers in both parties. On the Republican side, the result may have been as much about dislike of Trump as it was about affection for Cruz. (Exit polls showed that more than a quarter of Republican voters would vote for either Hillary Clinton or a third-party candidate if Trump were the nominee.) Trump’s angry, aggrieved message seemed to turn off many voters in the state, and Wisconsin is full of voters with whom Trump has struggled all along, especially college-educated and religious voters. The entertainer has also tangled with Scott Walker, the governor and former GOP presidential candidate, who remains popular with Republicans in his home state. Trump was also hurt by staunch opposition of a pack of conservative talk-radio hosts, led by Charlie Sykes, who were determined to stop him.

Cruz spoke in Milwaukee shortly after the race was called for him, not long after polls closed. “As a result of tonight, as a result of the people of Wisconsin defying the media, defying the pundits, I am more convinced that our campaign is going to win the 1,237 delegates needed to win the Republican nomination,” he said. “Either before Cleveland or at the convention in Cleveland, together we will win a majority of the delegates and together we will beat Hillary Clinton in November.”

It’s not the most inspiring message, but it is a realistic depiction of the dry, grinding state of the campaign. However, Cruz would still need a stunning surge down the home stretch to make it to 1,237 ahead of the convention. As it became clear that Cruz was likely to win, the conversation among Republicans has shifted in recent days, with many observers now saying a contested convention is the most likely outcome of the race. That’s a bittersweet prospect for the GOP: It might be the best chance to prevent a Trump nomination, but a chaotic circus in Cleveland could hurt the party.

Trump had limped into Wisconsin, with his standing sinking nationally from a brutal few weeks. His campaign has faced backlashes after he sniped at Heidi Cruz, Ted Cruz’s wife, and from the arrest of his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, for assaulting a reporter in Florida. He’s projected to need around 60 percent of the remaining delegates—a challenging though not impossible task. One bright spot for Trump: He led among Wisconsin Republicans who wanted a candidate who would bring change. Perhaps anticipating the sour results, Trump did not speak publicly on Tuesday.

Trump’s campaign did issue a blistering statement, accusing him of illegally coordinating with super PACs and calling Cruz a “worse than a puppet” of the establishment. “Mr. Trump is the only candidate who can secure the delegates needed to win the Republican nomination and ultimately defeat Hillary Clinton,” spokeswoman Hope Hicks said.

John Kasich, the third Republican remaining in the race, delivered yet another disappointing finish. By some appearances, Wisconsin might have been a good state for an affable, establishment Midwesterner like him. But Kasich seemed to have realized it was not to be more than a week ago, focusing his energies on New York. The result will increase the pressure on Kasich to leave the race, but he’s rejected the pleas of Republicans for him to depart and give Cruz an easier shot at beating Trump.

With his win in Wisconsin, Sanders has now won an impressive six of the last seven contests, including a sweep of the Washington, Hawaii, and Alaska caucuses on March 26. The Badger State was also favorable ground for Sanders, thanks to a high proportion of white voters. Despite Walker’s recent successes in the state, it’s highly polarized, and boasts a long history of support for the crusading progressive tradition from which Sanders hails. Clinton, who lost in Wisconsin to Barack Obama in 2008, once again couldn’t pull off a win.

A hoarse Sanders celebrated his win while campaigning in Laramie, Wyoming. (That state holds it caucuses on Saturday.) He claimed to have momentum on his side.

“Momentum is starting this campaign 11 months ago and the media determining that we were a fringe candidacy. Momentum is starting the campaign 60 to 70 points behind Secretary Clinton .... Momentum is that when you look at national polls or you look at statewide polls, we are defeating Donald Trump by very significant numbers,” Sanders said. “Let me take this opportunity to thank the people of Wisconsin for their strong support.”

All five campaigns now have two weeks left before the next major primary, which is April 19 in New York. The Empire State should offer a chance for both front-runners to regain their footing. It’s Trump’s home state, and it’s Clinton’s adopted home state (or one of them), which she represented in the Senate. But Sanders, who retains the thick accent of Brooklyn, where he grew up, is vowing to give Clinton a run for her money. The two Democrats have agreed (after some snippy comments from both sides) to a debate on April 14, their first meeting in more than a month. Recent polls show Clinton up by more than 10 points. Trump’s margin is even greater—more than 30 points in some polls. Kasich is hoping to bounce back there, and Cruz has also promised to fight hard for a win, though his January swipe at Trump’s “New York values” won’t help. In two weeks, New Yorkers will have a chance to show what their values really are.

David A. Graham

Updates

This live blog has concluded

“We have now won 7 out of 8 of the last caucuses and primaries,” Bernie Sanders noted in a victory speech tonight from Laramie, Wyoming. “And we have won almost all of them with overwhelming landslide numbers.” A victory in Wisconsin is just the first step in his road to a possible turnaround, as he would like to pull a big margin of victory in the state to take a similarly wide margin of delegates. His speech destination in Wyoming represents the next stop on that road.

As Andrew noted, this contest could give Sanders the all-important momentum, even after a rough policy day. The main theme of Sanders’s speech was just that: momentum. It was a major motif throughout the speech, and in between his usual statements about income inequality, student debt, universal health care, and criminal justice, he wove what he pitched as a viable path to victory. That path includes wins in Wyoming, New York, Oregon, and California, after which Sanders believes superdelegates might rally to his banner. While New York might be a difficult state to win, Sanders likes his odds. “Please keep this a secret,” he stated. “But I believe we’ve got an excellent chance to win New York and a lot of delegates in that state.”

One important new wrinkle of Sanders’s speech was a focus on the Panama Papers leak, in which a tax haven bank in Panama implicated several prominent world leaders in some under-the-table money dealing. Sanders took the news item and tied it to his message about free trade, saying that American trade policy with Panama gave it its status as a tax haven.

Sanders’s speech tonight didn’t add too much policy-wise, but his newfound momentum has added an energy to the speech and to the crowd. Regardless of the delegate counts of these contests, a recent streak of commanding victories has given his campaign both a social and financial boost.

In his acceptance speech Tuesday night, Ted Cruz quoted a passage from an unlikely source.

In 1960, accepting the Democrat Party's nomination, John F. Kennedy observed, “I think the American people expect more from us than cries of indignation and attack. The times are too grave, the challenge too urgent and the stakes too high to permit the customary passions of political debate. We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light the candle that can guide us to see through that darkness to a safe and sane future. As Winston Churchill said on taking office, ‘If we open a quarrel between the present and the past, we shall be in danger of losing the future.’” The same is true today. Tonight Wisconsin has lit a candle guiding the way forward. Tonight we once again have hope for the future. Tonight is about unity and tonight is about hope.

There were a number of odd things about that choice. For starters, it was confusing. It was a Republican candidate, quoting a Democratic candidate, misquoting a British prime minister.

But also, it was substantively confusing. Churchill was trying to hold together a wartime national-unity coalition, by putting internal divisions in the past. Kennedy quoted him to insist he wasn’t going to spend his time attacking Republicans, but he made no effort to forge common cause with them. Cruz seemed to be calling for internal party unity.

And then there’s the context of the quote. Despite his soaring rhetoric, Kennedy wasn’t shy about launching into Richard Nixon and the GOP elsewhere in the speech. “The Republican nominee-to-be, of course, is also a young man,” he said. “But his approach is as old as McKinley. His party is the party of the past.”

Somehow, Cruz forgot to quote that part.

Tonight wasn't great for Trump, but he still might leave Wisconsin with a handful of delegates. He's currently hanging on with a plurality in both the 3rd and 7th congressional districts. If those numbers hold, he'll be able to pick up six delegates and avoid a complete shutout. It's not huge, so to speak, but Trump will need each and every one of them in Cleveland.

I mentioned earlier that Donald Trump won't be staging his typical pomp-and-circumstance-heavy presser tonight. But in a statement from his campaign, we get a taste of how Trump will respond to Ted Cruz's win when he's campaigning tomorrow. Between accusations of super PAC coordination and allegations Cruz is an establishment "Trojan horse," this one is a doozy.

Thanks to Wisconsin, Ted Cruz says, America has hope again.

In a victory speech shortly after the Wisconsin polls closed, the candidate framed his Tuesday win as a “turning point” for the race—and a “rallying cry” for his fellow Americans.

“I am more and more convinced that our campaign is going to earn the 1,237 delegates needed to win the Republican nomination,” Cruz said in smiley speech. Without skipping a  beat, he affirmed the anti-Trump crowd's plans for July. “Either before Cleveland or at the convention, together we will win the majority of the delegates and together we will beat Hillary Clinton in November.”

Cruz described the slow-build success of his effort, starting with a win in Utah last month. Each state he's taken has been “very different” from the others, the candidate noted, as if to suggest his candidacy has significant range.  

The campaign's ability to attract ideologically diverse supporters fueled his Wisconsin win, Cruz suggested, citing endorsements from Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Utah Senator Mike Lee, and others. The “full spectrum of the Republican party” is uniting behind his campaign, he said.

Bernie Sanders is projected to win Wisconsin—a victory that’ll likely provide momentum to Sanders campaign and, as Nora noted earlier, provide more reason for him to stay in the race. It’s also another consecutive victory for Sanders, who recently swept Democratic contests in Hawaii, Alaska, and Washington.

Sanders was expected to do well Wisconsin. The Vermont senator has fared well in largely-white states. And as exit poll results showed, he continued to hold a lead among young voters. Sanders, who’s currently leading by seven points, will still need a big victory in the state to narrow the delegate gap between him and Clinton.

Donald Trump is breaking his primary-night tradition tonight. According to sources Washington Post reporter Robert Costa spoke with, Trump is taking in the Wisconsin results with his family in New York City. His quiet Manhattan evening is a departure from previous primary nights, when he's staged press conferences-cum-rallies. Trump's campaign likely didn't plan an event so that the candidate wouldn't have to immediately address Cruz's win, which was anticipated ahead of Tuesday's contest. He'll definitely have something to say about Cruz by late Wednesday, when he's holding a rally on Long Island.

About half of Milwaukee County's precincts just came in on the Democratic side, and Clinton has a slight lead over Sanders with 52 percent to 47 percent. As I noted earlier, the 2nd district—where Milwaukee County is located—is one of tonight's two big district prizes, with 10 delegates proportionally up for grabs. If these results hold, Clinton likely won't receive enough delegates in the district to offset Sanders's gains elsewhere. That's good news for Sanders, who needs as many as he can get to chip away at her pledged-delegate lead nationwide.

So Cruz has won Wisconsin, likely by a wide margin; he’s currently leading Trump by 20 points. This gives him several things.

The first is a fresh set of delegates, though we don't yet know exactly how many. They won't do much to get him to the 1,237 delegates he needs to clinch the nomination, but that goal is secondary at this point: They're delegates Trump doesn't have, and they push the party closer to a contested convention, Cruz's best shot at the nomination.

The second is another state win, likely with a majority of delegates, adding to the total necessary under current GOP rules for Cruz to be considered at such a convention.

But more importantly, he gains the all-important campaign intangible of momentum—and perhaps critically, he also takes that momentum away from Trump. Cruz was expected to win, and he needed it. But he needed Trump to lose even more.

Young democracy in action earlier today, from Capital Times staff photographer Saiyna Bashir.

CNN's exit polls show Cruz and and Sanders both in the lead in Wisconsin, though the network hasn't called either race yet. Cruz bested or tied Trump at every income level, though Trump narrowly edged out Cruz among voters who want a candidate who can “bring change.” Trump is leading both Cruz and Kasich among moderate voters.

Sanders and Clinton split along the accustomed age lines—Clinton pulling voters over 44, Sanders winning among everyone younger—but Sanders swept every income category, rich or poor. He also conquered every ideology, besting Clinton among very liberal, liberal, and moderate voters. That said, Clinton still wins by a wide margin with voters who value electability and experience.

Interesting final note: Sanders was the first choice for voters who believe life will be worse for future Americans, but also their neighbors who believe it will be better. Clinton, on the other hand, won among people who believe the average American's situation will remain the same.

One candidate's distress is another's fundraising opportunity.

Bernie Sanders took criticism today for his recent interview with The New York Daily News editorial board, in which the presidential candidate seemed unable to offer specifics about how he'd reform the U.S. banking system, among other issues. In a brutal tallying of what he sees as Sanders missteps, a Washington Post editorial board members writes: “The more I read the transcript, the more it became clear that the candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination doesn’t know much beyond his standard stump speech about breaking up the banks and how he had the good judgment to vote against the Iraq War in 2002.” His was but one example of the negative feedback Sanders received.

By Tuesday night, just an hour before the Wisconsin polls closed, the Clinton campaign was trying to raise money off the kerfuffle. They copied and pasted what appeared to be the entire interview transcript into an email to supporters, highlighting in yellow some of their favorite parts. And they topped the email with an extended thesis statement, writing that while Sanders “cares passionately about the things he believes in,” the Democratic primary “is about who's really going to be able to get things done. And from reading this interview, you get the impression Senator Sanders hasn't thought very much about that.”

Polls in Wisconsin are about to close. It’s worth noting another few facts from the exit polls: Two in 10 Republican voters in Wisconsin say they’d actually vote for Hillary Clinton or stay home if Donald Trump wins the nomination, higher than the same comparison for his competitors. Forty percent think Ted Cruz is the better choice to beat Clinton in the fall; another third say it’s important that the eventual nominee share their values. All these numbers are good for Cruz.

Exit poll results in Wisconsin don’t look promising for Donald Trump, particularly in regard to one of his regular talking points—immigration. As Andrew noted, more than 60 percent of the state's Republican voters believe undocumented immigrants should have a path to legal status, according to exit poll results. And only a third say they should be deported. This might spell trouble for Trump, who’s made immigration a central pillar of his platform.

Earlier today, in a memo to The Washington Post, Trump outlined how he’d make Mexico pay for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, despite Mexico’s president saying the country wouldn’t foot the bill. What if they did? Uri explored the question in here.

In any case, Republican views on immigration appear to be evolving. A survey released last week by the Public Religion Research Institute found stark differences between older and younger Republicans. Fifty-one percent of those between ages 18 to 29 believe “immigrants strengthen American society,” compared to only 22 percent among those 65 and older. As has been the case thus far in the presidential primary, Trump will likely be looking toward the latter group tonight.

The first Wisconsin exit polls are in. As expected, the preliminary GOP results show the state leans away from Donald Trump. Only 40 percent of voters are excited by the idea of President Trump, and more than half the population thinks he’s run the most unfair campaign, compared to 25 percent for Ted Cruz and 10 percent for John Kasich. Indeed, there appears to be deep unease about the New York billionaire: 40 percent of voters say they're “scared” of what Trump would do in office, and a similar proportion are in favor of a contested convention.

But the most surprising result so far: More than 60 percent of Wisconsin Republican voters believe undocumented immigrants should have a path to legal status, likely the highest proportion in any state polled so far. At the same time, seven in ten told pollsters they'd support a ban on Muslims  entering the U.S.

On the Democratic side, Sanders appears to be doing well, according to exit poll results. More voters think Clinton's proposals are realistic, but the gap between her and Sanders on that matter is smaller than has been seen elsewhere. Voters are also evenly split on who would be a better commander-in-chief. Only four in ten said that electability or experience are the most important qualities in a president; about 60 percent said they value honesty and empathy above all else, a response that's been closely tied before to Sanders support.

Like their Democratic counterparts, Wisconsin Republicans allocate their delegates in two blocs. 18 of the state's 42 delegates are awarded to the statewide winner. The remaining 24 delegates are divvied up among Wisconsin's eight congressional districts.

Two major differences with the Democratic system are worth highlighting. First, those 24 delegates are evenly divided, so each of the eight districts is only worth 3 delegates apiece. Second, and more importantly, Wisconsin Republicans don't proportionally allocate any of its delegates. That means a candidate who wins a simple plurality throughout the state and in all eight districts can walk away with all 42 delegates.

That's bad news for Donald Trump, whose opponents are desperately trying to deny him the 1,237 delegates he needs to win the Republican nomination outright. Ted Cruz went into today's race leading the recent polls, so victory in Wisconsin might be a dim prospect for the GOP frontrunner tonight. But he could soften the delegate blow if he picks up a few of the state's congressional districts and the three delegates in each of them.

It’s never too late to start, right? With the Republican National Convention barely 100 days away, Donald Trump’s campaign tells The Washington Post that the candidate will deliver a series of policy-oriented speeches over the coming weeks. Among the topics on the table: Trump’s criteria for Supreme Court nominees, his plans for the military, and education reform.

As anyone who has attended a Trump rally or even watched one on TV will know, that’s rather different from his standard fare—free-form spiels, often more geared to creating a good show and channeling grievances than talking policy. And as anyone who’s watched a Republican debate this year will know, Trump tends to be pretty skimpy on policy details when he’s pressed, resorting to sloganeering and promises of strength, and sometimes insisting he can’t divulge details because they might be stolen by other candidates or countries. (Ben Carson, not exactly renowned as a wonk during his own presidential bid, says he’s advising Trump on the judicial end.)

But Trump is coming off down a rough stretch in the campaign. There’s been unrelenting bad press over his sniping at Heidi Cruz, wife of Ted Cruz, and the campaign manager Corey Lewandowski’s alleged assault on the reporter Michelle Fields. With Trump’s chances of reaching an outright majority of delegates before the convention fading, he’s trying to shore up his credentials. The speeches will show whether Trump really can learn everything as quickly as he says—and whether delving into the divisive details of policy will help or hurt his campaign.

Here’s a quick look at the delegate math for Clinton and Sanders, who are battling for 86 pledged delegates in today’s primary. (Wisconsin's 10 superdelegates are not bound by today’s result.)

Twenty-nine of those delegates will be proportionally pledged to the winner of the statewide vote—a potential boon for Sanders, who has a slight lead in recent polls. The remaining 57 delegates are distributed among Wisconsin’s eight congressional districts. Six of those districts offer between five and seven delegates each. But the two districts covering the state's big cities offer almost twice as many. Wisconsin’s 2nd district, which includes the state capital Madison and its suburbs, holds 11 delegates. The 4th district, which includes the greater Milwaukee area, offers 10.

A similar imbalance worked towards Clinton’s favor in neighboring Michigan, where Sanders pulled off a narrow victory in the statewide vote on March 8. The upset win gave him momentum but didn’t dent Clinton's delegate lead: 67 of Michigan’s delegates went to him and 63 went to her, according to the AP's count. Sanders swept the state’s rural areas, but Clinton edged ahead of him in most of the state’s urban centers. That allowed her to make up ground in the delegate hunt. In seven Michigan congressional districts, for example, Sanders won three delegates to Clinton's two for a net gain of seven delegates. Clinton virtually canceled out those gains by winning six delegates to Sanders’s three in both the 13th and 14th districts in and around Detroit, giving her a net gain of six delegates.

But Sanders has also turned that imbalance against Clinton. In Washington's caucuses on March 26, for example, he won by wide margins in both urban and rural districts. He reaped a larger net gain of delegates accordingly. If Sanders matches the polls and narrowly wins statewide, the delegate-rich 2nd and 4th districts will determine whether he can chip away at Clinton's delegate lead or simply keeps pace with it.

Every one of Wisconsin’s 15 at-large delegates are allocated to the statewide winner—and Ted Cruz, the frontrunner, looks likely to take them all. But the actual people who serve as delegates are picked by the state’s Republican Party.

That normally isn’t a controversial decision, at least not beyond the bounds of the selection meeting room. It’s a favor the state party hands out to party leaders and committed volunteers. But since the neck-and-neck Republican race looks increasingly likely to end up with no clear winner, the delegates take on new importance: In a contested convention, they could become unbound from their pledged candidate and vote for whomever they please. That’s a wrinkle few anticipated, including the RNC, which pushed a slew of rule changes regarding delegates after the 2012 election.

“It’s one of these things that’s a regular part of the process but is usually less consequential, because by the time we get to the selection process, we already have a presumptive nominee,” said Josh Putnam, a lecturer on political science at the University of Georgia and founder of the FrontloadingHQ blog. “No one was sitting around in that room in Tampa [the site of the last Republican National Convention] and saying, ‘We’re going to have a contested convention in four years.’ And nor were they thinking that in the two years after that, when they were tweaking the rules.”

Trump’s already gone ballistic over how key committee roles were assigned to apparent Cruz supporters in Louisiana, and he fought hard to keep delegate slots filled with his own people in Tennessee. He’s apparently learned his lesson and is building out his team accordingly. But these squabbles show how woefully unprepared he was in the ways of delegatecraft, compared to Cruz, who has laid plenty of groundwork to prevailed in a brokered convention.

Wisconsin’s conservative radio hosts are taking on Donald Trump, quickly becoming some of his most enthusiastic opponents. Take, for example, Charlie Sykes, an influential conservative talk-radio host. Last week, Sykes asked Trump about the heated exchange between Trump and Cruz on Twitter which went so far as to include their wives. “Is your standard that if a supporter does something despicable, that it’s OK for you, a candidate for president of the Untied States, to behave that same way?” Sykes asked, likening the behavior to that of a 12 year-old bully on the playground. Sykes, also the leader of the “Stop Trump” movement, isn’t the only opponent of the real-estate mogul among conservative radio hosts in the states. According to a New York Times report, several talk radio hosts have joined in an effort to prevent a Trump win.

Eleven percent of Americans find news radio to be the most helpful source for learning about the 2016 race, according to a Pew Research Center survey. In Wisconsin, talk radio plays a particularly influential role, so losing the support of the state’s conservative radio hosts might hurt Trump.

Wisconsinites tired of primary politics won’t find much respite after Tuesday is over, thanks to a heated contest for the U.S. senate in the state. The battle between sitting Republican Senator Ron Johnson and former Democratic Senator Russ Feingold is already attracting national attention because Democrats and their allies view Johnson’s swing-state seat as crucial to the party taking back the upper chamber. He’s being targeted for his position on President Obama's Supreme Court nominee (he doesn't think Merrick Garland should get a hearing) and for sharing a party with Donald Trump.

Johnson isn’t without his high-profile defenders, though. The Koch brothers-supported Americans for Prosperity spent $1 million recently to begin running a pro-Johnson ad in Wisconsin.* You can find the ad, which will start airing Wednesday, here. Note that it mentions neither the Supreme Court nor the Republican presidential frontrunner.


* This article originally mischaracterized Americans for Prosperity; it's a 501(c)4. We regret the error.

On one key issue that matters to Wisconsinites, Ted Cruz has been slippery indeed. During a weekend visit to the Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha, according to the AP, the presidential candidate refused to sport a cheese wedge on his head, declaring that the “first rule of politics is ‘no funny hats.’” Also of note: Cruz appeared to be dairy panderer, refusing to pick a favorite kind out of the store’s 600 varieties. “I like cheese on cheese,” he said.

Here, Cruz stands with a giant anthropomorphized mouse. At least one of them was not too proud to wear the cheese wedge.

Jim Young / Reuters

Super PACs have once again pulled out the big guns against Trump, dropping millions in ad buys in Wisconsin. The political-technology firm Circa Victor estimates that PACs spent more than $4 million in the state since the start of the year, with 83 percent of that directed against a candidate, usually Trump.

What's interesting to see are the new names on the recent PAC reports. Gone are campaign surrogates like Right to Rise, which fueled Jeb Bush's bid; they've flamed out along with their candidates, though some still have cash to spend. The big spenders are now the Club for Growth, which recently announced its support for Cruz, and Our Principles PAC, an anti-Trump outfit. That's not to say that candidate-specific PACs aren't still in play—in Wisconsin, Trusted Leadership (Cruz) and New Day Independent Media Committee (Kasich) both have spent into the six figures—but they're not the dominant force they used to be.

As David and Nora note, the new voter-ID law in Wisconsin is a key consideration today. The reports of high turnout, which indicate high motivation to vote, might allow us to allow us to figure out more precisely why other people are staying home. That might give us a sense of the impact of the voter-ID law, especially with the lack of an education program about what the new law requires of voters.

Wisconsin will be important for the national debate around voter-ID laws as well. Proponents seem to be moving away from the rather thin and easily dismantled argument that voter IDs are important factors in stopping voter fraud and are espousing a much more philosophical argument: that making voting more difficult is good for our political process. We discussed the move toward making voting more difficult in a new 2016 Distilled video here.

Charles Rex Arbogast / AP

Nora pointed out earlier that one X factor in today’s election is Wisconsin’s new voter-ID law. That’s one thing that might make it tough for people to vote. Another one is simple turnout. So far, there’s indication that lots of Wisconsinites are headed to the polls today. In Waukesha County, just west of Milwaukee, the clerk expects 80 percent turnout.

Anecdotally, there seems to be a mix of long lines and shorter ones: long in Milwaukee, not so much in Bay View. Brown County, home to Green Bay, seems to be especially busy. MSNBC’s Tony Dokoupil reports that even before lunch rush—to say nothing of the evening rush—people are just throwing in the towel and going home rather than waiting up to an hour.

The problem appears to be getting people checked in, which suggests maybe the voter-ID law has gummed up the works:

Brown County is a conservative area—although President Obama handily won Wisconsin in 2012, the county went for Mitt Romney. Rick Santorum beat Romney there in the 2012 GOP.

Donald Trump is once again beating back the support of white nationalists. Since Saturday, Wisconsin residents have received robocalls paid for by the chairman of the American Freedom Party, a white nationalist group that “aims to deport immigrants and return the United States to white rule,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The recorded message doesn't mention that, of course. It features an older woman reading the text below:

The American National Super PAC makes this call to support Donald Trump. My name is Mary Mitchell and I am a member of the American Freedom Party. I am voting for Donald Trump because he will not only be presidential, he will put America first. Furthermore, he will respect all women and will help preserve western civilization. If you vote for Donald Trump, he will be a fine president. He will select the very best persons to be in his Cabinet and the entire world will benefit from his leadership. This message is paid for by William Johnson, a farmer and a white nationalist.

Johnson previously appeared in a pro-Trump robocall targeting Iowa, which said U.S. communities “don’t need Muslims.” A Trump spokesperson said Trump and his campaign “strongly condemn these views.”

A win in Wisconsin for Bernie Sanders would fuel momentum for his campaign and, as Nora noted earlier, provide more reason for him to stay in the race. To do so, Sanders has adopted a similar strategy to the one he employed in Michigan, where he won last month. While campaigning in Wisconsin, Sanders targeted Clinton’s trade policies. “Over the last 30, 40 years, we have had trade policies in this country written by corporate America, and what they have been designed to do is allow companies to shut down plants in Vermont, in Wisconsin and all over this country because they don’t want to pay workers here $15, $20, $25 an hour,” Sanders said. Polls show Sanders slightly ahead of Clinton in Wisconsin. If he emerges the victor, it would narrow the delegate gap between the two candidates. As NPR notes, “Of the Democrats’ 86 pledged delegates, 57 will be awarded proportionally by congressional district, while 19 will be given to the statewide victor.”

Sanders is coming off a strong month. He swept Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii. Sanders also raised more than $44 million in March, far outpacing Clinton and again showing his ability to rake in small dollars.

This weekend, in a suburb of Green Bay, Ted Cruz grabbed a couple of hot dogs and some popcorn and attended a showing of God’s Not Dead 2, a follow-up to the 2014 flick about the lack of tolerance for religion on a fictional American college campus. The sequel stars Melissa Joan Hart as a teacher who is put on trial for referring to the Bible in her classroom. “I am not going to be afraid to say the name Jesus,” she says.

The premise of the movie is a little sketchy, to say the least—it’s not illegal to say “Jesus” in a public-school classroom in America—but the political fodder is right up Cruz’s alley.

“It is unfortunate to see the modern Democratic Party has gotten so extreme, so radicalized that religious liberty is now viewed in conflict with the partisan political agenda of the Democratic Party,” the presidential candidate said, according to the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “Every one of us has the right to live according to our faith. And this should be a shared value that brings us together.”

The event was likely a play to conservative Christian voters who are worried about religious-liberty issues. Or maybe Cruz just wanted a break.

“One simple reality, if I want to see a movie, it’s got to be a campaign stop,” he said.

Today’s presidential primary in Wisconsin is the first since the state’s 2011 voter-ID law went into effect. Since Scott Walker signed the law five years ago, it has been winding its way through the courts; last spring, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge against it, effectively upholding it. Voter ID laws are controversial in their own right: Their typically conservative supporters say they combat fraud, a rare occurrence; while their detractors, mostly liberals, argue that they disenfranchise low-income, elderly, and young voters.

The controversy over voter ID in Wisconsin, though, has been even more intense than usual. That's because the state did not dole out funds for a public-information campaign to instruct voters, which is required by the law that mandated voter IDs. Today, a report in ProPublica says, "thousands of citizens" might not be able to vote because they lack the proper documents. Volunteers have been trying to educate voters in the absence of the state-run campaign. As ProPublica reports:

Volunteer groups have spent the past few months fielding calls from voters, handing out informational fliers, holding press conferences on the law and taking voters without drivers’ licenses to the DMV to get state-issued ID cards. But they say it’s an uphill battle. “We’ve heard from a number of people who have said they didn’t have enough information about the law,” Andrea Kaminski, the executive director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, said. “They’re surprised they didn’t see anything on TV, on the Internet.”

Bernie Sanders has been especially vocal about his opposition to the law; The Hill noted in a story Monday that Sanders’s young voter base might be the reason why. “I think what Governor Walker and what other Republican governors and legislators are doing is not only shameful, it’s un-American in the deepest sense of the word,” Sanders said in Wisconsin early this week.

If there’s one thing that Ted Cruz and Donald Trump probably agree on, it’s that John Kasich should drop out of the race. The two candidates are mounting pressure on the Ohio governor in an attempt to secure delegate support at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. “Someone is not electable if he can’t get elected,” Cruz said. Thus far, Kasich has only won one primary: his home state of Ohio, which held its elections on March 15.

NBC News reports that the Trump and Cruz campaigns are working to keep Kasich from being an option for delegates on the convention ballot. Whether or not that happens will depend on the convention rules, which are drawn up by the rules committee. According to NBC, “Both campaigns are backing a rule that would require candidates to achieve a minimum amount of support to get on the ballot, which could block Kasich in Cleveland.”

Kasich’s campaign is familiar with these frustrations. Last month, top Republicans pushed for Kasich’s exit in favor of Marco Rubio.  Rubio has since dropped out of the race. But the Ohio governor continues undeterred. “I’m not getting out,” Kasich told reporters on Monday. “Why would I get out, particularly when Trump’s worried I’m going to get his votes?"