Wisconsin Primary: A Preview

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The race for the White House picks back up again tonight in Wisconsin. Here, the trajectory of the Republican race can begin to change, and on the Democratic side, the race could only grow more protracted and nasty.

For some useful data on Wisconsin’s county and congressional district demographics, voting history, and more, check out this spreadsheet I put together.

Republicans

Who votes: Open primary. People are allowed to vote regardless of party registration.

Poll closings: Polls will close at 8:00 p.m. CST (9:00 p.m. EST).

Delegate Allocation & Thresholds: 42 total delegates available: 24 awarded by district on a winner take all basis; 18 awarded statewide on a winner take all basis; no vote threshold to receive delegates.

Three delegates are assigned to each of Wisconsin’s eight congressional districts. The winner of a district, gets all three of its delegates.

The winner of the statewide vote will be awarded all 18 of the state’s available at-large delegates.

Preview: After months of futile efforts to stop Donald Trump’s run to the nomination, the “Never Trump” movement looks like it is starting to make some headway in Wisconsin. Make no mistake, the reason for this is not because they have finally found an actual strategy to take Trump down. The reason this movement is making some headway is because it seems like some of Trump’s behavior and comments are finally starting to erode his support.

There has been a relentless stream of negative coverage of Trump’s campaign that began with the riots at his campaign rally in Chicago three weeks ago. Since then, it has only snowballed from there. The riots finally gave the other candidates an opening to go after him on an issue. Shortly thereafter, there was a steady stream of videos showing physical violence at other Trump rallies, much of it egged on by Trump himself.

Then came the story, and subsequent video, of Trump’s campaign manager forcibly grabbing a female reporter after she got “too close” to the GOP frontrunner. An incident which led to him being charged with simple battery. The story only got worse when even after seeing video of the incident, Trump stood by his campaign manager and portrayed himself as the real victim.

Unfortunately for Trump, the bad news did not stop there. He then gave a series of bizarre, and scary, interviews to the Washington Post and New York Times editorial boards where audio showed his utter lack of knowledge on all things foreign policy.

This could have been the least damaging story since Trump’s lack of specific knowledge of foreign affairs has been on display since he entered the race. That changed when just last week, he refused to rule out using nuclear weapons in Europe. Let me repeat that. Donald Trump, front runner for the Republican nomination for President of the United States, refused to rule out using nuclear weapons in Europe.

And to top it all off, Donald Trump somehow managed to unite pro-choice and pro-life groups against him when at a March 30 townhall interview on MSNBC, he told Chris Matthews he thought women should be punished for having abortions should Roe Vs Wade be overturned.

Then he clarified his comments by saying the issue should be left to the states. A few hours later he shifted his position again, saying the doctor performing the abortion, not the woman, should be punished. But he didn’t stop there. On April 1 he said the laws are in place and should stay that way. A few hours later he settled, for now, on the position that the laws are in place but he would seek to change them as president. This was all over a three-day period.

Which brings us back to Wisconsin. This is a state Trump should do well in. The republican electorate in Wisconsin is largely made up of evangelical Christians and blue collar workers who have been adversely affected by trade deals. Trump has dominated these constituencies in previous states. Yet recent polls show him losing to Ted Cruz by as many as 10 points.

Wisconsin is not a straight up winner take all state. So even if he loses, Trump could still scoop up some delegates on the district level. But if he loses by a margin close to 10 points, he could be shut out of delegates all together. Should this happen, Trump’s chances of getting to 1,237 delegates before the convention will take a pretty big hit.

Democrats

Who votes:  Open primary. People are allowed to vote regardless of party registration.

Poll closings: Polls will close at 8:00 p.m. CST (9:00 p.m. EST).

Delegate Allocation & Thresholds: 96 total delegates available: 86 pledged delegates; 10 unpledged superdelegates. 57 awarded by district; 19 awarded statewide; 15% threshold to receive delegates at either the state or district level.

Wisconsin’s district level delegates are assigned to each congressional district proportionally. The big prizes are the second and fourth congressional districts. District 2 (11 delegates at stake) is home to Madison where young, progressive voters should make up the base of Sanders’ support; while the fourth (10 delegates at stake) is home to Milwaukee. The district has the largest African population (33%) in the state, by far, so Clinton should do well here.

Preview: Bernie Sanders is that scrappy, underdog team in the NCAA tournament that refuses to go down without a fight.

After a deflating Super Tuesday on March 1, Sanders came back and shocked the world by winning Michigan one week later. After being swept in all five contests on March 15, including in states like Illinois and Missouri, where many thought he would win, Sanders came back and routed Clinton out west in a series of caucuses on March 26.

With the wind at his back, Sanders comes into a state that plays more to his strengths than it does Clinton’s; and one where Obama routed Clinton in 2008 on his way to the nomination. Wisconsin has been a hotbed of progressive activism going back to the days of the Vietnam War. This is especially true in Dane County (Madison) which is home to the University of Wisconsin. As I mentioned before, Wisconsin is also home to many workers who have been affected by previous trade deals Sanders has campaigned against throughout his career.

Add to all of that the fact Wisconsin is an open primary, and there is a reason the Sanders campaign is optimistic about their chances here. Recent polling showing Sanders with an average lead of around three points only reinforces their optimism.

A loss here will not be as damaging to Clinton as many in the punditry class seem to believe. This, of course, is assuming she doesn’t get wiped out. Since delegates are awarded proportionally, a three or four point loss still allows Clinton to amass enough delegates to prevent Sanders from significantly cutting into her already large pledged delegate lead.

Though if Sanders can pull off an Obama-like romp, he can start to actually cut into her lead and put her squarely on the defensive going into an increasingly crucial New York primary coming up on April 19.

Wisconsin is more or less a smaller version of the country as a whole. It is home state of notorious Sen. Joseph McCarthy and of a very passionate and engaged progressive movement. It is the reason it is heavily targeted by both parties despite not having voted for a republican presidential candidate since 1984.

Even though it has not been friendly to Republicans in presidential years, this is the state that gave liberal icon Russ Feingold the boot in favor of the arch-conservative Sen. Ron Johnson in 2010; and the state that elected Scott Walker by a significant margin twice. Three times if you count the 2012 recall election.

On Tuesday, this microcosm of America will have a chance to change the trajectory of both party primaries.

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