The midwestern state of Wisconisn provided two upsets this past week with convincing victories for Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz. The waning days of March were relatively light on headline news after Florida, yet the Wisconsin results pivot the primaries into the later stages of April and May.
Pundits have been all too eager to write off Bernie Sanders, yet Wisconsin represents his sixth victory in the past seven states.
Clinton’s camp aren’t too concerned just yet: many of these were small western states (Hawaii, Alaska, Utah and Idaho) that the Clinton team expected to lose, and have few delegates anyway. However, the irrefutable stamina of the Sanders campaign, particularly given its small-donation fundraising machine, defies those political commentators who wished to eliminate him from the race after his loss in Ohio and Illinois.
Sanders needs to adapt
An open primary allows voters who are not registered with a political party to vote, and for Bernie this has allowed him to pull in independents.Wisconsin was one of the last to vote.
Of the 18 remaining states to go to the polls for the Democrats, only two operate open primaries. That’s Indiana, and the delegate-poor Montana. Sanders’ most significant victories have come in open primaries: New Hampshire, Michigan and his landslide win in his home state of Vermont. Added to which, Sanders’ has also performed well in caucuses, but there are only four more relatively small states and territories holding caucuses.
The bottomline is that open primaries and caucuses have been a central component of Sanders’ ability to challenge Hillary Clinton thus far: he will need to become more competitive to lifelong Democrats in primaries to continue his challenge.
All eyes on New York
With the above two points in mind, and a Wisconsin demographic relatively amenable to Sanders, the overwhelming focus for Democrats is now on New York state.
Whereas 96 delegates were on offer in Wisconsin, New York has 291. New York is Democratic heartland, and the victor here not only will take away a tidy sum of delegates, but also claim the mantle of the Empire State for future primaries.
Bernie Sanders believes he can connect with victims of the declining manufacturing industry, and also appeal to younger urban voters in New York City. Despite this, Hillary Clinton still leads in polling, and has a noted record as two-term Senator for the state, especially among the African American communities of Harlem.
New York is the make or break moment for Sanders. If Hillary Clinton wins the state by 10% or more, it will likely be over for Sanders. The Vermont Senator has shown run a campaign far beyond its initial expectations, but has failed to win many large states. If Clinton can secure an emphatic win in New York, it will be the gut punch needed to knock out her cantankerous rival.
Trump falling short
Taking a measly 6 delegates compared to Ted Cruz’s 36, Donald Trump will leave Wisconsin happy to put that state in the rear view mirror.
Cruz was well positioned in the state from the outset, with a demographic similar to Iowa that gave Cruz his first victory of this primary season. Added to which, Governor Scott Walker, who remains popular among Republicans, gave Cruz his endorsement, while local radio personalities not only joined in this endorsement of the Texan senator, but also lambasted Trump on air.
Trump was soundly beaten, 48% to 35%, while John Kasich lagged in third place at 14%. There were very few positives to take away from Wisconsin for Trump, and he will seek to rebound with his familiar state of New York on April 19th.
Donald’s women problem
Finally, at long last, some of Trump’s obnoxious behaviour may be catching up with him. His enlisting of his wife, Melania, on the Wisconsin campaign trail was an indicator of a broader problem he is facing with women.
Trump has never been especially talented in politically wooing women. His public disputes with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, suggesting her interviewing was affected by her period, was the first indication in this campaign of his barely veiled misogyny. However, the past week could have potentially been a turning point.
His campaign manager Corey Lewandowski has been brought up on charges of assaulting a female journalist, Trump was seen to publicly insult Ted Cruz’s wife on Twitter, and suggested women who have abortions should be punished.
The remarkable thing is that Trump’s women problem hasn’t already undermined his campaign. Women make up 51% of the American population, yet remain locked in a peculiar ‘women’s issue’-realm of political discussion. To his credit, Trump has capitalised on his appeal among predominantly white men to a position of remarkable advantage at this stage of the contest. However, moving forward it is likely that Trump will seek to tone down some of this more outlandish and offensive remarks about women, lest he risk casting Ted Cruz as the conservative champion for women. Which is ridiculous.