Voters from just one state will make their presidential nomination decisions on Tuesday, but it’s a big one for both Democrats and Republicans alike. Indeed, the direction of both races could take different courses once the dust settles.
Republican Primary (42 Delegates)
For Republicans looking to stop Donald Trump from winning the party’s nomination, Wisconsin is a critical contest. If Ted Cruz wins, as the polls suggest he will, it could be spun as a turning point in the race, solidifying the Texas Senator as a kind of co-frontrunner in the Republican contest. It’s unlikely that Cruz will win the necessary 1,237 delegates to take the nomination on the first ballot at the Republican convention, but winning in Wisconsin makes it much more difficult for Trump to get to that number. Though almost anything can happen in a brokered or contested convention, if no candidate wins the majority of delegates, it would seem Cruz is the most likely to win the nomination on a second or third ballot.
If Trump defies the polling and wins, though, Wisconsin could go down as a Waterloo moment for Cruz and the #NeverTrump movement. With polling leads in California and New York, the map favors Trump the rest of the way. And a win in Wisconsin would give Trump momentum that would help him collect additional delegates in future contests, further weakening Cruz’s argument that he is the best alternative to the businessman.
Democratic Primary (86 Delegates)
On the Democratic side, Wisconsin offers Bernie Sanders a chance to further solidify his status as a real player in the race and keep his comeback against Hillary Clinton going. Sanders is leading in the most recent polls in the state, but not by much. With delegates awarded proportionally in all Democratic contests, he would need to outperform his polling to post a real victory. That isn’t impossible, given how well he performed in nearby Michigan, where he was expected to lose. Sanders could use a big win in Wisconsin to reinvigorate his supporters and bring out even more donors, which will be crucial in the upcoming New York primary. If Clinton wins, it’ll offer even more evidence that she continues her steady, slow march toward the nomination.