Wisconsin Primary Hot Take & Reax

Cruz nearly shut out Trump while Sanders and Clinton both hit their targets. (Click here to see all of TLP’s 2016 election posts)

These guys won.


State (party) – Candidate vote% (delegates)

Wisconsin (Dem) – Sanders 56.5% (47), Clinton 43.2% (36)

Wisconsin (GOP) – Cruz 48.2% (36), Trump 35.1% (6), Kasich 14.1% (0/?)

(Source: NYTimes)

Hot Take


I’m going to be up front about this: I am tired of the primaries. Tired might be the wrong word as it implies a problem with the duration of the primary contest, which is definitely part of the issue but not most of it. Mostly I am intellectually and emotionally fatigued by the increasing inanity of the race and its coverage. The GOP contest is now a seemingly interminable fight between two vicious, awful men battling for the mantle of Most Regressive Dudebro. The Democratic primary, which could be a fascinating contest between two candidates that are both broadly virtuous and deeply flawed, has transmogrified into some kind of anti-intellectual shit show from which it may or may not recover (e.g. the recent he-said/she-said argument about debate scheduling). But anyway, with the disclaimer that this is all awful and I’m grumpy about it, here goes:

Re: Democrats – Bernie Sanders won Wisconsin by 13 points and thusly got the delegates he needed, but no more, and must continue to win every single remaining primary by the same margin. Hillary Clinton lost by 13 points and is still on track to win the nomination handily. If this primary is beginning to feel simultaneously strange and familiar, there is good reason: Clinton is winning the way Obama won in 2008 while Sanders is losing the way Clinton lost in 2008 – that’s the familiar part. The strange part is that then-Senator Obama was cast as the outsider candidate in the 2008 narrative, whereas Senator Sanders is seen as the outsider candidate in 2016. It’s like running into an old friend you haven’t seen in 8 years and during that time, despite basically being the same person, they have totally switched subcultures, speaking styles, and appearances. Same thing, different presentation. I’ve got more thoughts on all this and will do my best to put them in a standalone post soon. Maybe I’ll call it Clinton v Sanders: Dawn of Numbness.

Re: Republicans – Cruz, Trump, and Kasich are all awful human beings. Just awful. They all want to oppress everyone who isn’t a wealthy, white, straight, cisgendered man. I’m tired of hearing or reading about them. I’m tired of people pretending any one of them is more electable than another. I’m sick to death of the idea that their primary fight is exciting. If it was a battle for who can win a delegate majority and how, that would be interesting. But it’s not! Trump has a very slim chance of winning an outright majority of delegates and after last night his only hope is to significantly beat expectations in upcoming primaries. Cruz and Kasich have no chance at a delegate majority. So it does look like a contested convention is coming to Cleveland in July, but here is the thing: If nobody is going to win the GOP nomination before the convention then none of what is happening right now matters much. For this reason, other than these reax posts, I am done paying much attention or doing any writing about the GOP guys. Call it a mental health break.

The Reax

Libby Nelson tells us what we already know, which is that last night’s big wins for Cruz and Sanders are not a particularly big deal:

As the bigger picture, though, both Clinton and Trump remain frontrunners for the time being. Sanders has, impressively, won six of the past seven states to vote, but the math necessary for him to pass Clinton in pledged delegates given his deficit remains quite difficult. And Cruz remains well behind Trump in the delegate count — though Wisconsin’s Republican results do make the prospects of a contested convention on the GOP side more likely.

Jonathan Bernstein looks at Wisconsin results and ahead to New York and comes to a conclusion not unlike my own:

Bottom line: Clinton’s lead is safe. The Republican side is still up in the air. Trump could get to 1,237 by June 7. Cruz could rally and get close to Trump by then, and then take a lead during the pre-convention period. Either candidate could win on the first ballot. Cruz could win after the first ballot. Even a deadlocked convention with some other candidate winning eventually remains a plausible outcome. And unless something changes, all of those possibilities will be in play for the next two months.

Albert R. Hunt has the same conclusions, but includes this tidbit of information that puts Trump’s loss in perspective (and dampens claims of Cruz’s sudden momentum):

Interestingly, however, Trump ended up with about the same percentage of the Wisconsin vote that he had in polls taken more than a week before his recent round of blunders. This suggests he’s likely to continue to hold somewhere between 35 percent and 40 percent of Republicans even as he is disliked by most of the others. To win the 1,237 delegates required for the nomination, Trump must win more than 55 percent of the remaining delegates, a challenge made steeper by Wisconsin.

Jim Newell throws some more cold water on the Cruz momentum meme:

But now the race heads back to the East Coast. Any chatter of “momentum” for Cruz will be extinguished on April 19 with the arrival of the New York primary, which is another way of saying that “momentum” isn’t a good framework for considering this primary calendar. With a broad, statewide win in New York, Trump can cancel out most of the delegate gains Cruz has made in recent smaller contests. Cruz does have two events scheduled this week in New York: one at a Bronx charter school and another further upstate at a Christian school in Scotia. But the calendar doesn’t really pick up for him again until early May, with its contests in Indiana and Nebraska.

David Weigel points out that there is one person who is suffering from Cruz’s fauxmentum – John Kasich:

Kasich apparently suffered from the stop-Trump movement’s consolidation in Wisconsin, which began before the candidates even arrived to campaign. Just 20 percent of voters who made up their minds in the final week voted for Kasich, a lower number than he enjoyed in most March 15 states. Just 18 percent of independent voters chose Kasich; in Illinois’ primary, Kasich had won 28 percent of independents, better than Cruz. Kasich edged Cruz with self-identified moderate voters, 29-27, but in Illinois he’d won 32 percent of them to Cruz’s 15 percent.

Eliana Johnson describes how Wisconsin was the first time that the all the #NeverTrump forces managed to actually work together:

Many of Trump’s Republican foes have argued for months now that defeating him would require a sort of all-hands-on-deck effort: opposition from elected officials, the conservative media, and top-dollar donors. While there has been much talk about an anti-Trump movement — the Twittersphere has branded it #NeverTrump — its components have rarely worked in tandem. The literary critic Lionel Trilling wrote in 1950 that conservatism was less a body of ideas than a series of “irritable mental gestures”; its expression in the form of a movement to destroy Trump, and to save itself, has been similarly disjointed. Independent parts have operated without a central-command system. In Wisconsin, though, the stars aligned. A super PAC funded by Republican mega-donors sent an ad attacking Trump viral. After a self-imposed hibernation following his withdrawal from the presidential race, Walker emerged as a vociferous spokesman for Cruz. The state’s conservative talk-radio hosts, Sykes chief among them, hammered Trump relentlessly, unlike many of their national counterparts.

Most of what I could find this morning was related to the GOP contest (ugh), but that is largely because folks are probably tired of writing stories about how Sanders is winning but losing. But kudos to Jeremy Stahl for giving us a write up of Sanders’ and his victory speech to supporters at a rally in Wyoming:

Sanders has now won six of the past seven Democratic nominating contests and heads into the next two contests on a high note. He will likely continue his momentum in this Saturday’s Wyoming caucus before a crucial primary in two weeks in New York.

In his victory speech to supporters in Wyoming ahead of that caucus, Sanders emphasized the theme of his “momentum.” (He also began his speech by touching on a familiar subject of media-bashing.)

“Momentum is starting this campaign 11 months ago and the media determining we were a fringe candidacy. Momentum is starting the campaign 60 to 70 points behind Secretary Clinton,” Sanders said.

“Momentum is that within the last couple of weeks there have been [multiple] national polls that have had as us one point up or one point down.”

If a reader finds some other good Clinton and/or Sanders articles, please use the email link at the bottom of this post to send it to me and I will update accordingly. If you’re desperate for some more words on the Democratic contest and don’t care about quality, then I’m sure the folks at USUncut are heralding the beginning of the end for the Clinton campaign today, just as some writers at Salon are now openly parroting far-right fever dreams about Clinton’s email problems. For my part, I don’t read or excerpt anything that is so far out there that I consider it a straw man in the national discourse (this is why nothing from Breitbart or Drudge appears here, either).

Next up: the Wyoming caucus on Saturday, April 9th. Until then, may you be blessed with other things to think about. I know I’ll be going back to writing about the archetypal qualities of the Batman mythology ASAP.

Click here to see all of TLP’s 2016 election posts.

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