This race began with 17 candidates, but because of the unprecedented coverage of Donald Trump it really has been a one-man race for most of the election. There has been a false choice between whether people love Trump or hate him – just by virtue of the media coverage alone. Given the divided field and the lack of coverage, Ted Cruz lacked the ability to stand out and coalesce people behind a positive conservative, anti-establishment message.
Tonight’s sweeping victory in Wisconsin proves team Cruz’s original thesis: as long as this is a two-man race and as long as Cruz can get his message out, Trump can be defeated in almost every state. In many ways, this could be the Waterloo of the election.
Here are some observations and outcomes from this race:
- Cruz Consolidates Support: Wisconsin is the first real primary after the other non-Trump candidates (except for Kasich) exited the race. Arizona had a lot of votes already banked from early voting, and Utah is an anomaly, given the Mormon dislike for Trump. Wisconsin demonstrates the Cruz thesis that he can win in a two-man race and even won big with Kasich dragging him down, even in an open primary. He will likely come away with 48 percent of the total vote and 54 percent of the registered Republican voters.
- Winning Trump Demographics: Many pundits are saying Cruz was expected to win in the Badger State, but most polls had Trump ahead 30-19 before Cruz began campaigning there. This state is an older white demographic with a large share that is not college educated – tailor made for Trump. In fact, there are so few Republicans in the state under 30 – Cruz’s best age group – that the exit polls didn’t even register them as a data point. Yet, Cruz won across the board with every important demographic displayed in the exit polls. He won non-college educated voters and the lowest income voters. Cruz also won every age group including voters over 65 – Trump’s best demographic – by 11 points.
- No Gender Gap: For all the talk about the gender gap, Cruz’s win was perfectly uniform among men and women, winning both by 13 percent. Again, this proves that it’s more than just galvanizing anti-Trump demographics. When Cruz is actually able to focus on a state for a full week or two and get out his message to the voters, it’s a different race. For the first time ever, Cruz not only crushed Trump among those who voted based on “shared values” but tied Trump among those who wanted the candidate who would bring the most change to Washington.
- Cruz Combining Conservative Coalition: Some Trump supporters are suggesting that Cruz is just becoming the de facto establishment candidate and winning their coalition. In reality, Cruz won the “very conservative” voters by a whopping 65-28 margin and increased his reach to “somewhat conservative” voters, winning them by 11 points. Trump only won self-described moderates. Also, Cruz won a resounding victory even though just 65 percent of voters were actually registered Republicans. Cruz tied Trump among non-Republican voters and won the conservative bastion in the Milwaukee suburbs by 40 points. He won Republican voters by 22 points. It’s clear that he would have swept all of the districts had this been a closed primary.
- Republicans Can Win Wisconsin in the Fall: Republicans have not won Wisconsin since 1984, but they have an excellent shot at it this fall. Hillary will still likely be the nominee but she lost the state to Bernie Sanders and the combined GOP turnout swamped the Democrat turnout. If Cruz is the nominee, he can place some of the Midwestern states Hillary lost (yes, including Iowa) in play.
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