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Anti-Donald Trump forces say Wisconsin primary is ‘Ted Cruz’s to lose’

Wisconsin’s Republican primary is shaping up as a fateful test of whetherSen. Ted Cruz can blunt the momentum of Donald Trump, and anti-Trump forces are rushing to back Mr. Cruz, the GOP establishment’s unlikely champion.

With its deep reservoir of committed conservative voters, Wisconsin, which votes in two weeks, is considered fertile ground for Mr. Cruz, who’s also seeing millions of dollars in spending by his allies and anti-Trumppolitical action committees.

“It’s Ted Cruz’s to lose,” said Brian Fraley, a Republican political strategist in Wisconsin. “The never-Trump movement is pretty strong here.”

Wisconsin awards 18 delegates on a winner-take-all basis to the top statewide vote-getter and a further three delegates to the winner in each of its eight congressional districts. That’s a potentially significant haul inMr. Trump’s hunt for the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination and avoid a contested convention.
Anti-Donald Trump forces say Wisconsin primary is ‘Ted Cruz’s to lose’
Mr. Fraley said the state’s conservatives were in “fighting shape” after five years of battling for Gov. Scott Walker, a tea party darling who survived a recall election and implemented a conservative agenda, including winning a showdown with state workers unions.

Those conservative voters are primed to back Mr. Cruz, spurred on by local talk radio hosts who are fervently leading the never-Trumpmovement in the state. But Mr. Fraley warned that it wouldn’t be a slam dunk and Mr. Cruz still must woo supporters, saying the Texan “needs to move to Wisconsin for the next two weeks.”

Indeed, Mr. Cruz campaigned in the state Wednesday and Thursday, and had three stops planned for Friday.

Mr. Trump so far only has a rally scheduled Tuesday in Janesville. The Trump campaign did not respond to questions about its plans for the state.

The stakes couldn’t be higher in the Badger State, said GOP campaign consultant Michael McKenna.

It could be Mr. Cruz’s best chance to flip the momentum, he said, adding that a Trump victory in Wisconsin would set the stage for the front-runner to sweep upcoming delegate-rich contests in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

“If Trump beats him in Wisconsin, a lot of air comes out of everyone’s balloon and the question becomes how far are they willing to go to change the rules [at the GOP convention] to prevent this guy from being the nominee,” he said.

The race in Wisconsin was extremely close, according to an Emerson College poll released this week in which Mr. Cruz barely edges out Mr. Trump, by 36 percent to 35 percent, though that 1-point lead is well within the poll’s 4.6 percentage-point error margin. Ohio Gov. John Kasich trailed at 19 percent in the survey of likely GOP voters.

Mr. Cruz could be getting a timely boost from the Republican governor. Mr. Walker, who ended his presidential bid early in the race, hinted this week that he could make an endorsement before the state’s April 5 primary and that it probably won’t be for Mr. Trump.
“I think it’s fair to say that my views, my beliefs, my strategy overall would probably be more aligned with either Sen. Ted Cruz or Gov. John Kasich,” Mr. Walker told radio host Charlie Sykes, a “Never Trump” adherent.

“I think if you’re looking at the numbers objectively, Ted CruzSen. Cruzis the only one who’s got a chance other than Donald Trump to win the nomination,” said Mr. Walker. “Statistically, my friend Gov. Kasich cannot.”
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