A new Fox Business GOP primary poll of “likely Wisconsin Republican voters” shows Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is pulling away from the pack. According toe Fox Business, 42 percent of respondents identified Cruz as their top choice. Donald Trump finished in second place (32 percent) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich finished in third (19 percent).
The new poll marks the first time in recent months a candidate has pulled away from Trump in Wisconsin.
The results have many analysts surprised. After all, Trump won nearby Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan, and Cruz has struggled to amass significant support in most northern states (other than in Iowa and the rural West.) So, what’s going on here?
There are a variety of factors that could be at play. Trump’s recent attacks on Cruz’s wife, Heidi, could play a major role. Wisconsin is the epitome of the “Midwest.” The people are hardworking, generally conservative in the way they act, and they are very friendly and polite. Trump, frankly, is too outrageous for the put-your-head-down-and-work culture in Wisconsin. However, the same is true in a number of other states Trump did very well in. Vermont, for instance, is not the sort of culture you would expect Trump to succeed in. Neither is much of Ohio.
While the personal attacks probably do play some role, I think something deeper is at play here: GOP voters appear to be shifting toward the candidate who can stop Trump, which is different from one state to the next. Pennsylvania voters seem to be moving more toward Kasich, for instance. Many of those Kasich voters in Pennsylvania may very be Cruz supporters, but they know the only real chance of stopping Trump in Pennsylvania is voting for Kasich. The same may be true for Wisconsin, who saw Trump win a ton of delegates in neighboring Illinois less than a month ago because the Kasich-Cruz vote was split.
There are other important considerations as well. Popular Gov. Scott Walker recently endorsed Cruz, which probably means a lot to many GOP voters in the state. Trump’s embarrassing interview with popular Wisconsin radio talk show host Charlie Sykes may also play a role (see video below). Ultimately, only time will tell if a “divide and conquer” strategy to take Trump down is going to yield the results many conservatives are hoping for.