Wisconsin, Canary in the Convention Coal Mine

If Cruz wins big, Trump may well face a second ballot; if he loses, front-runner is sitting pretty

A Tuesday night victory in Wisconsin will not be enough for Ted Cruz to deny Donald Trump the GOP nomination — but the Badger State outcome may foretell success for the Texas senator’s effort to bring the battle to a contested convention.

Before Cruz can throw the nomination battle to a convention fight and hope to win that brawl, the Texas senator has to survive Tuesday. For Cruz to stay alive in the GOP contest Wisconsin is simply a must-win. Expectations for Cruz in the midwestern state are sky-high after winning the support of Governor Scott Walker and leading a series of recent polls. Trump is the easy favorite to take the New York primary on April 19, leaving Wisconsin the only contest Cruz can likely win in the five-week lull between multi-state contests.

A surprise loss in Wisconsin would not only shut the door on most mathematical paths forward for Cruz, it would prove a fatal blow to the Texas senator’s momentum. But assuming the polls hold and Cruz notches a strong victory in Wisconsin, the win will indicate Cruz has the capacity to win in the midwest, and most importantly, in the critical state of Indiana.

Of the remaining contests, Indiana on May 3 is uniquely crucial to determining whether Trump can reach the magic 1,237 delegates to seize the nomination before the convention.

The Hoosier State will award 30 delegates to the winner of the primary statewide, with another 27 to be doled out to the winners of each of the state’s congressional districts. The 30 winner-take-all delegates alone represent the biggest winner-take-all haul remaining in the post-Wisconsin GOP lineup, save for contests in New Jersey (51) and Nebraska (33).

Trump will enter New Jersey the heavy favorite and the same will go for Cruz in Nebraska. That leaves Indiana as one of the few delegate-rich, true battlegrounds remaining in the contest. With no recent public polling in the state, Indiana’s close cousin Wisconsin may be the best indicator of how the Hoosiers may vote.

[lz_table title=”Wisconsin and Indiana Compared” source=”U.S. Census Bureau “]Demographics,WI,IN
White non-Hispanic,82%,80%
|Education Level
High School or Higher,91%,88%
Bachelors or Higher,27%,24%

Indiana is 80 percent non-Hispanic white, compared with 82 percent in Wisconsin, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Latino population in both states is minuscule, coming in at between 6 and 7 percent. Both states also notch low immigrant populations, with 4.8 and 4.7 percent foreign-born residents respectively.

People in both states are more likely than the national average to think economic conditions are getting worse, according to the Economic Confidence Index from Gallup.

The pair also leads the nation as the top two states for manufacturing jobs as a percent of their overall employment.

Trump has made a focus on American workers and a revival of manufacturing the key theme of his populist appeal. The front-runner has lampooned the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and past trade bargains, which have decimated the manufacturing and textiles industries across much of the country.

But Cruz recognized the potential of that populist appeal early in the race and incorporated tough-talk on free trade agreements into his own messaging. For a large swath of the GOP contest, Cruz campaigned on the substance of Trump’s rhetoric on restoring American manufacturing.

[lz_table title=”Top Five States for Manufacturing” source=”National Association of Manufacturers”]State,Share of Total Employment

If Cruz wins Wisconsin, the duo will have split four of the top five manufacturing states. Cruz won fourth-ranked Iowa and Trump has notched victories in third- and fifth-ranked Michigan and Alabama. That leaves just the crucial state of Indiana left to vote among the nation’s top states for manufacturing.

Cruz’s appeal as a rock-solid conservative and his own claim to outsider status as a fighter against the Establishment have now been merged, ironically, with the backing and blessing of the GOP Establishment, who have gathered under the banner of #neverTrump.

That confluence of appeal has Cruz solidly positioned to win in Wisconsin, and it may be a harbinger of another victory in Indiana. The math for Cruz would have to line up in other contests, but a win in Indiana would place the Texas senator firmly on the goal line of forcing a contested convention.

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