Donald Trump’s presidential campaign faces another crucial test in Wisconsin’s Republican primary Tuesday night.
The GOP frontrunner’s chances of securing the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the GOP nomination outright would greatly increase if he can secure a win.
But if he falls short, the odds of a contested convention, in which anti-Trump forces could potentially coalesce around an alternate presidential candidate, would increase instead.
Trump appears aware of the stakes.
“I want to get there with Wisconsin,” he said at a Monday campaign stop.
But Trump’s top rival, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, is favoured to win.
Most recent surveys found Trump trailing Cruz in the Badger State. The RealClearPolitics average of polls conducted in the last several weeks found Cruz about 5 points ahead of Trump. The more historically reliable surveys have found Cruz ahead by an even wider margin.
Much of the major conservative infrastructure in Wisconsin is lined up against Trump. Gov. Scott Walker, who dropped out of the race himself last year, endorsed Cruz and cut an ad on his behalf. And many prominent conservative talk-radio hosts in the state have spent months criticising Trump.
The structure of Wisconsin’s primary contest could also allow Cruz to take home all of the state’s 42 delegates if the senator performs well across the map. Wisconsin allocates 15 delegates to the statewide winner and the rest are awarded to the winners of individual congressional districts.
Trump’s last two weeks have not been kind to him, either.
He botched a question about abortion rights and his campaign spent days clarifying his position. He admitted that it was a mistake to promote an unflattering photo of Cruz’s wife. And his campaign manager was charged with simple battery in connection to an incident in which a reporter accused the aide of grabbing her.
But Trump nevertheless dug in with a major, last-minute push to win Wisconsin.
He barnstormed across the state since the end of last week. The billionaire even spent multiple nights in Wisconsin hotels, which cuts against his typical habit of flying back to Manhattan or southern Florida after his speeches. He also did retail-campaign stops on Monday and Tuesday at diners, the type of campaign appearance he usually eschews for gigantic rallies.
Trump hasn’t attempted to downplay expectations, either. He has repeatedly dismissed the polls showing him behind in Wisconsin and predicted again and again that that he would ultimately defeat Cruz there.
“I said, ‘What do you think? I’m not seeing polls that are great. I’m down, I’m a little down,'” Trump told his supporters Monday of a conversation he had with a friend.
“No,” his friend replied, according to the candidate. “You’re going to win.”