Wisconsin Provides a Needed Boost to Cruz and Sanders

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 7.13.38 AMFIRST DRAFT

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Good Wednesday morning. The Wisconsin primaries on Tuesday, for which The Times provided live analysis, were most important for Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont as they sought to keep within reach of their respective parties’ nominations.

Mr. Cruz soundly defeated Donald J. Trump on Tuesday, breathing new life into efforts to halt Mr. Trump’s divisive presidential candidacy, while Mr. Sanders won his sixth straight victory in the Democratic nominating contest.

Mr. Trump’s loss was his most significant setback since Mr. Cruz narrowly defeated him in Iowa, the campaign’s first nominating contest. And after largely dominating the Republican field from the moment he announced his candidacy in June, Mr. Trump now faces a new challenge: bouncing back in the face of searing attack ads by Republicans bent on stopping him, persistent questions about his demeanor and campaign organization, and a single ascendant challenger in Mr. Cruz.

In winning Wisconsin so convincingly, Mr. Cruz showed he was capable of appealing to more than just the hard-line and religious conservative Republicans who have been the foundation of his campaign.

Mr. Cruz not only took nearly two-thirds of “very conservative” voters, he also won among voters who called themselves only “somewhat conservative.”

Most striking, though, was how many Wisconsin primary voters still harbored deep discomfort with Mr. Trump despite his wide lead in the race for delegates. In exit polls, 55 percent said they would be “concerned” or “scared” if he were elected, higher than the other two Republican hopefuls. And 35 percent of those who voted in the Republican primary said they would support Hillary Clinton, a third-party candidate or no one at all if Mr. Trump were the Republican nominee.

Many Republicans hoping to defeat Mr. Trump saw Wisconsin as perhaps their last chance to thwart his march to the nomination.

For the party’s anti-Trump forces, a victory for Mr. Cruz promised to revitalize hopes that Mr. Trump could be denied a delegate majority, potentially resulting in a contested convention in July.

Mr. Sanders’s victory does not significantly dent Mrs. Clinton’s comfortable lead in the race for the 2,383 delegates needed to secure the Democratic nomination. But it underscores her problems connecting with young and white working-class voters who have gravitated to Mr. Sanders’s economic message — a message he will now take to economically depressed parts of New York State before the April 19 primary there.

Mr. Sanders hardly left Wisconsin in recent days, pouring his energy and resources into securing a win that would help him put to rest any doubts that he could capture a major primary state, and providing his campaign with renewed focus as he strives for an upset in New York, Mrs. Clinton’s adopted home state.

What We’re Watching Today

Mrs. Clinton will begin to nurse her wounds from the loss in Wisconsin with appearances in Pennsylvania, which votes on April 26, including at the state’s A.F.L.-C.I.O. convention in Philadelphia and a round-table discussion with Mayor Jim Kenney. Mr. Sanders will also be in the state, holding a rally in Philadelphia and a “community conversation” at a church.
The Republicans will be in New York, where Mr. Trump will hold a large rally in Long Island, and Mr. Cruz will be in the Bronx.

Eric Thayer for The New York Times

Mr. Cruz’s victory, capping a difficult week for Mr. Trump, increases the chance that the race will not be settled until the Republican convention in July.

Bernie Sanders in Milwaukee on Tuesday after a week of campaigning in Wisconsin.

Hilary Swift for The New York Times

Mr. Sanders cut into Hillary Clinton’s delegate lead as his message of economic populism continued to resonate, but he still faces an uphill fight for the nomination.

The Trump SoHo building, a 46-story luxury condominium-hotel in Lower Manhattan.

Todd Heisler/The New York Times

In 2011, Mr. Trump and his co-defendants settled a suit involving one of his buildings amid a storm that threatened to cast a harsh light on how he did business.

The Trump SoHo building, a 46-story luxury condominium-hotel in Lower Manhattan.

Eric Thayer for The New York Times

Can a single state make a real difference in a chaotic and unpredictable presidential primary season? Tuesday night’s dual Wisconsin primaries suggest so.