Wisconsin Primaries Change The Race


Wisconsin's April 5 primary results on both the Democratic and Republican sides represent continued challenges to the two parties' current front-runners and set the stage for potentially contentious conventions. However, the results on the Republican side are more consequential than those on the Democratic side.

On the Democratic side, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont's impressive win in Wisconsin -- his sixth win out of the last seven Democratic primaries -- needs to be juxtaposed against the fact that he only picked up between 12 and 16 delegates over front-runner Hillary Clinton, which still leaves him far behind the former secretary of state in terms of both pledged delegates and 'superdelegates,' according to The Boston Globe's Michael Cohen.

The primary results in states like Wisconsin and Michigan have given Sanders some leverage over Clinton in that Clinton cannot afford to simply write off Sanders' supporters and try to only appeal to Democratic centrists. Particularly on economic issues, the results in Wisconsin and Michigan signal Democrats' increasing opposition to trade deals, such as NAFTA and WTO, both of which were founded during Clinton's husband's presidency.

In the weeks and months ahead, the primary schedule turns to closed primaries in diverse states such as New York, California, Maryland and Connecticut. Clinton is the favored candidate in each one of these states, and her support coming out of these primaries will give a better idea of how her campaign's message is perceived and to what degree the candidate should pivot away from her current talking points for the general election.

On the Republican side, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas's win over real estate mogul Donald Trump in Wisconsin suggests that a contested convention is becoming more and more likely.

The problem for the Republicans is that even though Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won Wisconsin and now has the backing of many highly prominent Republican establishment figures (2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney, former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina), he still is not well-liked by Republicans and has a much more difficult primary schedule ahead if he wants to keep his momentum going. To beat Trump in the northeastern states and mid-Atlantic states, Cruz will have to rally both his and Gov. John Kasich of Ohio's supporters so he can win the delegates he needs to win the nomination.

The results from Wisconsin, by obfuscating the current Republican presidential race, also make it more likely that a candidate currently not campaigning -- such as House Speaker, Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin - will eventually emerge as the party's nominee. Ryan is the best chance the GOP has to bring its party back together; from his dealings with the different wings of the party to his relationships with congressional Democrats, Ryan has proven that he can unite people. But putting Ryan at the top of the ticket, and essentially ignoring Americans' primary votes, would be a dangerous game.

As occurs in all primaries, the results of the next one (New York) will help to clarify the results from Wisconsin and put them in context. But on the Republican side, at least, Wisconsin already seems like a turning point in the race.

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Sources: The Washington Post, The Boston Globe / Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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