By Amrit Singh
True heads know that Wisconsin is a special place for politics. On the conservative side: The state claims the birthplace of the Republican Party (1854 in Ripon, WI to be exact) and the birth place of today's Speaker of the House (Paul Ryan) and a governor who ran for president (Scott Walker). On the liberal side: I can tell you about the progressive oasis that is Madison (where I went to law school, where you once could get a sandwich named after Che Guevara at a deli called The Radical Rye), and "Wayne’s World" can tell you about the only major US city to elect three Socialist mayors (Milwaukee, which also is Algonquin for "the good land").
Put simply, Wisconsin is a state with an unusually engaged, informed, and activistic electorate on both sides of the divide, and last night that state turned up big for the underdogs: Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders took home big double-digit wins, and Trump and Clinton are left to lick their wounds and prepare for an epic showdown in the state of New York on April 19th. Mark your calendars: It’s about to go down.
And, there are a few things to consider as we pivot out of Wisconsin and head to Yankee territory.
For the Democrats, Bernie Sanders’s victory gave him his sixth consecutive victory, but earned him a net gain of just 11 delegates (47 to Hillary's 36). So let's think about that in terms of the three Ms (that’s Map, Math, and Momentum, if you’re keeping score). During a celebratory victory speech last night, Bernie expounded on Momentum, reminding everyone of the resistance his candidacy has faced from the unofficial fourth M (the Media) and how far his camp has come. With a deep donor base giving an average contribution of "$27 a pop," Bernie’s funded to the gills and financially set to take his case all the way to the convention. And six straight wins is a gnarly streak. So he gets that M. That leaves Map and Math.
On the Map tip, we now move to New York, Bernie's actual birthplace and Hillary's adopted home, and a delegate-rich state with a diverse demographic, facts which have tended to favor Hillary in previous contests. And with the Math, well, as mentioned, Bernie picked up eleven net delegates over Hillary last night, which means he's running out of real estate to takeover her pledged delegate lead. So, mathematically speaking, Sanders's probable path is two-fold: He'll need big wins in the remaining states to make the requisite dent in Hillary’s lead in pledged delegates ("pledged" delegates are those earned via these polling contests), and then he’ll need to successfully plead his case to the "superdelegates" who officially log their selections at the convention, but the vast majority of whom have indicated support for Hillary. They're theoretically open to persuasion, though, and there is precedent of superdelegates shifting allegiance come convention time if there happens to be an undeniably surging insurgent. (You may remember 2008 and an Illinois Senator named Obama). And all of this has laid bare something Hillary needs to address: She is weak with young, white, working class voters and if she intends to win the party's nomination and be strong in the general, she'll need to find a way to mobilize that constituency in an authentic and organic way.
On the Republican side of things, last night Trump suffered his worst defeat since Iowa (which was the first contest of the season), and it seems his various missteps finally began to stick. Wisconsin radio hosts dragged Donald over the coals over a series of interviews that kept focus on Donald's recent controversial statements on abortion, and Trump's numbers sank in turn. The result of all of this? Donald retreated to his Tower in NYC to watch the Wisconsin results roll in, and responded to his significant loss to Ted Cruz with an angry official statement, which dusted off the "Lyin’ Ted" moniker and accused the Texan Senator of being a "Trojan horse," which the Republican establishment was using to derail his bid to become the party’s candidate and create a lane for some other candidate to take the slot in an open convention. (What’s an open, or contested, convention? We have you covered.)
Whether Trump’s conspiracy claims have merit or not, the fact of the matter is that his loss in Wisconsin has dramatically altered the delegate math and made his path to getting the necessary 1,237 delegate majority exceedingly narrow. So with this loss, Trump may be forced to face a contested convention. Now, New York is next, and it is Trump's home turf with a demographic that is not exactly Cruz's kind of people (remember, this is the guy who disparaged "New York values" like those were a bad thing to have), so Donald should do well there. But if you add up Map + Math, it seems Momentum has slipped out of Donald's grasp. And the prevailing inside-baseball talk is this: If Donald doesn't have the majority of delegates before the convention, he'll have a hard time locking up the Republican nomination in a contested convention. All bets are off. It's getting weird!
So in these weeks leading up to New York, keep a few things in mind: The tenor of the discourse is going to get heated. The state is a must-win for practically everyone involved. Whether your last name is Trump, Clinton, Cruz, Sanders, or Kasich, it’s time for all the candidates to get into a New York state of mind.
Check out last Wednesday's @FactsOnly column, on Social Media Bully Pulpits & The Male Gaze, here.