The Texan’s campaign is a near mirror image of the one that dealt Donald Trump his most stinging defeat.
ASHWAUBENON, Wis. — The similarities between neighboring Iowa and Wisconsin were supposed to be Scott Walker’s secret weapon in his 2016 campaign. Now they are proving to be Ted Cruz’s.
As Cruz seeks a watershed victory over Donald Trump in Wisconsin on Tuesday to reset the Republican race, on the heels of their scramble for delegates in North Dakota over the weekend, the Texas senator is running the same Iowa playbook that dealt Trump his worst loss of the cycle.
Just as in Iowa, Cruz arrived in Wisconsin before Trump, has worked it harder and stayed longer. He’s delivered speeches at rallies across the state, shaken hands at a sandwich shop, fought for votes at a fish fry and promised to bring back American jobs at a factory in Oshkosh.
Cruz has opened a “Camp Cruz” to provide free housing for volunteers who make the trek to the voter-rich Milwaukee region, as he did in Des Moines; he has again slammed Trump for refusing to debate him; and he has tried to fend off a third candidate (then Marco Rubio, now John Kasich) from serving as a spoiler.
The parallels run deeper. Cruz has the backing of one of the state’s leading right-wing talk radio hosts (Charlie Sykes in Wisconsin, Steve Deace in Iowa), one of the state’s leading social conservative groups (Wisconsin Family Action PAC now, The Family Leader in Iowa) and another extensive and deeply organized grass-roots network fueled by county chairs blanketing the state and a long list of supportive faith leaders. He spent Saturday night here in Ashwaubenon, screening a Christian film — just as he did in West Des Moines last fall.
“I am hoping for a similar outcome,” Iowa Rep. Steve King said with a laugh. King campaigned across Iowa with Cruz and now serves as his national campaign co-chairman.
Polls show Cruz in a stronger position in Wisconsin than they ever did in Iowa, where he consistently trailed Trump in the lead-up to the caucuses. Two polls in the final week have Cruz opening as much as a 10-point lead over Trump. A margin that wide on Election Day would likely deliver nearly all of Wisconsin’s coveted 42 delegates to Cruz.
In fact, the biggest differences between Iowa and Wisconsin appear only to benefit Cruz. Then, he was under fire from the political establishment — from the popular Republican governor there (Terry Branstad) to national leaders like Bob Dole. Now, Cruz has the backing of Wisconsin’s popular governor, former rival Scott Walker appears in one of his closing TV ads, as well as support from key figures in the state Legislature, including the majority leader and the Assembly speaker, both of whom previously supported Rubio. National leaders like Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush are also rallying behind him.
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