WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s apparent ascendancy to the Republican presidential nomination suffered a significant setback Tuesday (April 5) in Wisconsin.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas defeated the controversial billionaire/celebrity by 13 percentage points and won 36 of the Midwest state’s 42 delegates in the race for the GOP nomination. Wisconsin’s primary result increases the possibility of a scenario in which Trump is unable to win the delegates needed to prevent an open convention in July.
Democrats also saw their frontrunner lose in Wisconsin. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont outpolled Hillary Clinton — the former secretary of State, U.S. senator and first lady — also by 13 points. Sanders’ win — his sixth in the seven contests since March 22 — only garnered him 11 more delegates than Clinton, 47-36, in the Democrats’ process in Wisconsin.
Trump now has 742 pledged Republican delegates, while Cruz has 505, according to The New York Times. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the other GOP candidate still in the race, has 143. The nominee needs 1,237 delegates. That total is within Trump’s reach before the convention, but Cruz’s rise is making it more difficult for the frontrunner to avoid a battle when Republicans gather July 18-21 in Cleveland.
In the Democratic race, Clinton holds a strong lead because of her overwhelming advantage among superdelegates. She has 1,748 delegates, but 469 of those are superdelegates who potentially could change their votes. Sanders has 1,058 delegates, but only 31 are superdelegates. The Democratic nominee needs 2,383 delegates.
Ethicist Russell Moore pointed to the uncertainty that remains and reminded evangelical Christians of their role in the political process.
“In the midst of what has been a chaotic and unpredictable election cycle, last night’s results in Wisconsin showed that the race to the nomination is far from over,” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, in written comments.
“Regardless of what happens from now until the conventions, evangelicals should be leading the way in the public square and at the ballot box, evaluating candidates in terms of their ability to protect religious liberty and human dignity,” he said. “At the same time, despite the turbulence of this race, we should remember the surety of our hope in a kingdom that is sure to come.”
Bruce Ashford, provost and professor of theology and culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said Trump’s Wisconsin loss “appears more significant than Clinton’s.”
“Trump retains his lead over Cruz but faces a difficult path toward wrapping up the 1,237 delegates needed for the GOP nomination,” said Ashford.
Thomas Kidd, distinguished professor of history at Baylor University, said the GOP results in Wisconsin “look like a significant downturn for Donald Trump’s candidacy.”
While Trump should do well in future primaries, such as the April 19 contest in New York, “there is now a fairly clear path by which Cruz can supplant Trump as the nominee at the convention,” said Kidd in email comments.
Many evangelicals and conservatives have already pledged not to vote in the general election for either Trump or the Democratic nominee, who will be an abortion-rights advocate no matter who wins that party’s nod.
The resistance to Trump — including the use of the hashtag #NeverTrump on Twitter — has produced no-vote promises based on his inconsistent and even harsh policy positions on some issues; his uncivil, insult-laden rhetoric; and a lifestyle marked by adultery. Questions also have been raised about some of his business enterprises.
The controversy over the candidacy of the businessman and former reality TV star focused in the week before the Wisconsin primary on the abortion issue. He suggested in a March 30 interview women who seek illegal abortions in the future should be punished, but he soon backtracked on that position.
In an interview segment released April 1, Trump said the laws on abortion “are set” and added, “And I think we have to leave it that way.” Later that day, the campaign released a statement saying Trump, as president, “will change the law through his judicial appointments and allow the states to protect the unborn.”
The contradictory messages on a pre-eminent issue for many evangelicals did nothing to help his appeal to a group that has been a major force in the Republican electorate for nearly four decades.
Kidd observed, “Committed evangelicals are clearly coalescing around Cruz. Just how much of Cruz’s support is of the anti-Trump variety, and how much of it indicates real enthusiasm for the Texas senator, remains to be seen.”
Ashford said, “For evangelical voters who emphasize religious liberty, traditional marriage and pro-life values, there is very little cause for hope among the Democratic candidates. Among the Republican candidates there is cause for hope, as Cruz and Kasich have a long track record of commitment to those values.”
Of the Democratic race, Ashford said Sanders “still faces a very difficult path to the nomination, as [Clinton] leads in pledged delegates and is presently backed by the vast majority of superdelegates. The Sanders camp is hoping those superdelegates will change their minds based on his recent string of victories.”
The Wisconsin results showed Cruz with 48.2 percent of the votes, Trump with 35.1 percent and Kasich with 14.1 percent. Kasich won no delegates.
On the Democratic side, Sanders received 56.5 percent of the votes and Clinton 43.2 percent.
— by Tom Strode | BP