Fox News projects that Bernie Sanders will defeat Hillary Clinton in Tuesday’s Wisconsin Democratic presidential primary.
With polls now closed in the state, Fox News exit polling shows Sanders will win the contest, making it his sixth victory of the last seven primaries and caucuses – and giving him significant momentum in advance of the New York primary in two weeks.
On the Republican side, Fox News exit polls show Texas Sen. Ted Cruz enjoys a solid lead over New York businessman Donald Trump, though it’s too early to project a winner in that race.
Exit polls also showed Cruz enjoying his highest support of the campaign among evangelical Christians.
Fifty-three percent said they were supporting Cruz, while 35 percent were going for Trump. Just 11 percent said they back Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Trump, though, led with 43 percent support among independents, followed closely by Cruz with 38 percent.
Both Cruz and Sanders have led in recent polling in the state. While wins in Wisconsin wouldn’t necessarily lessen the odds against either winning their party’s nomination, the loss by Clinton – and a possible loss by Trump — would keep an aura of uncertainty hanging over both races.
Pressure would be immense on both front-runners to bounce back with wins in the April 19 New York primary, where Trump seems better positioned right now than Clinton, according to recent polls.
For Trump in particular, though, every loss – however slim – increases the chances he’ll fall short of the necessary 1,237 delegates to clinch the nomination and face a contested convention in July.
Cruz, enjoying the support of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, has campaigned harder than anybody in the Midwestern state. Buoyed by conservative talk show hosts and others opposed to a Trump bid, the Texas senator has led in most GOP polls leading up to Tuesday’s primary.
“We have now beaten Donald Trump in 11 states across the country. I am very hopeful after Wisconsin votes … that that will be 12 states,” Cruz told Fox News, in advance of the primary.
For Trump, the long lead-up to Wisconsin’s contest has included one of the worst stretches of his candidacy. He was embroiled in a spat involving Cruz’s wife, which he now says he regrets, was sidetracked by his campaign manager’s legal problems after an altercation with a female reporter, and stumbled awkwardly in comments about abortion.
Still, Trump made a spirited final push in the state and predicted a “really, really big victory.”
“If we do well here, it’s over,” he said. “If we don’t win here, it’s not over.”
Complicating the primary landscape for both Cruz and Trump is the continuing candidacy of John Kasich. The Ohio governor’s only victory has come in his home state, but he’s still picking up delegates that would otherwise help Trump inch closer to the nomination or help Cruz catch up.
Trump has joined Cruz in calling for Kasich to end his campaign. But Kasich cast Trump’s focus on him as a sign that he’s best positioned to win over the businessman’s supporters.
“The rule is 1,237 — if you don’t get the 1,237 you can’t be picked,” Kasich said Monday. “What’s wrong with that process? What are we supposed to say? ‘Well, you almost got there.’ Almost got there is not what the rules say.”
For Republicans, 42 delegates are at stake Tuesday. If Cruz wins all of Wisconsin’s 42 delegates, Trump would need to win 57 percent of those remaining to clinch the GOP nomination before the July convention. So far, Trump has won 48 percent of the delegates awarded.
Going into Tuesday’s primary, Trump had 737; Cruz had 475; and Kasich had 143.
For Democrats, 86 delegates were on the line Tuesday in Wisconsin. So far, Clinton has 1,243 delegates to Sanders’ 980 based on primaries and caucuses. When including superdelegates, the party officials who can back any candidate, Clinton holds a much wider lead — 1,712 to Sanders’ 1,011. It takes 2,383 delegates to win the Democratic nomination.
On the eve of voting in Wisconsin, Clinton’s campaign manager argued that Sanders’ only path to victory “relies on overturning the will of the voters.” In a memo to supporters, Robby Mook wrote that Sanders’ strategy now is “a combination of trying to flip pledged delegates at state and county conventions, while also convincing superdelegates that he deserves their support.”
Sanders would need to win 67 percent of the remaining delegates and uncommitted superdelegates to catch up to Clinton. So far, he’s winning 37 percent.
Even with Sanders’ win in Wisconsin, he might not gain much ground. Because Democrats award delegates proportionally, a narrow victory by either candidate on Tuesday would mean that both Sanders and Clinton would get a similar number of delegates.