Updated April 5 at 11:01 p.m. Ted Cruz handily won the Wisconsin GOP primary on Tuesday after the Republican establishment lined up behind him in recent weeks, complicating front-runner Donald Trump’s path to the nomination.
Bernie Sanders continued his recent string of victories over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary in a state that has not backed a Republican for president in more than 30 years.
Cruz, a Texas senator, met expectations in winning the contest in a romp after an endorsement by the state’s GOP Gov. Scott Walker — his former primary opponent — and a wide lead in preliminary polls.
“What an incredible victory,” Cruz told cheering supporters. “Tonight is a turning point.”
Trump’s campaign lashed back Tuesday night. “Ted Cruz is worse than a puppet – he is a Trojan horse, being used by the party bosses attempting to steal the nomination from Mr. Trump,” the campaign said in a statement.
The outcome following his loss in Ohio last month interrupted Trump’s momentum in the fight to amass 1,237 delegates to secure the nomination. Forty-two delegates were at stake in Wisconsin for the Republicans, though it was not clear whether Cruz would capture them all.
While he still leads Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the billionaire businessman must now win more convincingly to reach the delegate threshold ahead of the July convention in Cleveland.
Trump’s campaign had been sailing along, racking up an impressive streak of primary wins and forcing out all other rivals besides Cruz and Kasich.
But he hit turbulence recently as establishment Republicans, turned off by his caustic rhetoric and nationalistic policy positions, sought to blunt his progress.
Trump also tripped himself up , implying in an interview that women should be punished for having abortions and for a tawdry back-and-forth with Cruz over the appearance of their wives. Adding fuel to the fire, his campaign manager was charged with assaulting a reporter.
The presidential primary show now shifts to New York on April 19, Trump’s home state where he is leading by a wide margin, according to the latest CBS poll. The next big test will be Pennsylvania a week later. More than 160 delegates are up for grabs in those two states combined.
Despite Sanders’ win Tuesday night, the Vermont senator faces an uphill battle ahead of New York’s primary, despite the fact he is a Brooklyn native.
That didn’t seem to temper his mood on Tuesday when the Wisconsin results showed him with 53 percent of the vote with about a third of the tally counted.
“With a victory in Wisconsin tonight, we have now won seven out of eight of the last caucuses and primaries,” Sanders said, noting his strong margin of his victories and the momentum he asserts is now driving his campaign.
Eighty-six delegates were at stake in Wisconsin on the Democratic side. Prior to Tuesday, Clinton had 1,740 delegates compared to 1,024 for Sanders. The first candidate to 2,383 secures the nomination.