Wednesday, 6 April 2016

The Wisconsin Primary - The Results

In my third blog in my series following the US Presidential Primary campaigns, I round up with our visit to the Ted Cruz results watch party in West Allis, just outside Milwaukee, and a summary of a result which had been steadily building over the weekend.

Our journey down began as soon as I had finished visiting campaigners and polling stations across the city. Located in West Allis, this rally was a far cry from the big, bold, and flashy events we had seen yesterday in the Milwaukee centre. Indeed as soon as we arrived at the rally, the very different nature of Ted Cruz's campaign was clear to see. Rather than long queues, street blockades, and tight security, we were able to walk from the street into the centre of the rally in just under 10 seconds. Here, a relaxed crowed were drinking beer and waiting with baited breath for the results to break. 

This isn't a candidate-centric popular movement in the same way that the Sanders and Trump campaigns are, with thousands of supporters pouring in just to get a glimpse of the messenger. This is the campaign of beer drinking, barbecuing, Christian, Mid-West America. A campaign with a totally different feel. 

What followed was a huge night for Ted Cruz (and for Bernie Sanders). One which had been slowly but steadily building over the course of the weekend, and by the time the results were announced, we all knew was coming. 

When Scott Walker endorsed Cruz and introduced him to a rally in Green Bay, we were all but sure that the Senator would be winning the contest by sweeping up votes from Milwaukee up through to the Michigan border. The momentum in the polls was with him, he had the approval of a Senator popular in the state's largest city, and the only mentions among voters here of Donald Trump were made to discredit and dismiss the New York Businessman. 

Equally, Sanders was already set to do well in the majority white, working class rural areas surrounding Milwaukee and Madison, but in our view also appeared to be doing very well with voters in the city itself. This was very significant, as white working class voters in Milwaukee, Sanders' typical base, are very much in minority here with African American and Latino communities making up nearly 70% of the city's population. If Hilary Clinton was not making headway here, there was no way she was making it anywhere else.

In fact almost as soon as we arrived Clinton appeared completely to drop off, to give up and leave Sanders to rally supporters and voters across the city to his cause. A fundraising event with husband and former President Bill Clinton was the only evidence of the Clinton campaign that we could find by the time we had arrived. And as it turned out, Sanders swept the board across the state and lost by just a couple of points here in Milwaukee itself. 

In short, wins for Cruz and Sanders was a result you could see developing over the weekend. The size of them was the surprising element. 

Our visit to the rally Cruz rally gave an insight into the coalition of hardline conservatives and anti-establishment that the Texas Senator is building. It was very much a family affair, with more than a few groups of children, parents and grandparents all out together to soak in the atmosphere of the victory-party-to-be. Looking around, the crowd was almost exclusively made up of what you would consider your 'Average American' out here in the Mid-West.

In terms of what they were saying, the messages from the Cruz crowd were more direct than those from Trump's. Less slogans, more substance. Along with the words 'Jobs', 'Security', and 'Freedom' projected onto the walls around us, 'values' and 'trust' were buzzwords of the night among supporters. They spoke of great admiration for Cruz's conservative credentials, and support for his tough policies on immigration, protecting the constitution, and on cutting 'wasteful' spending. Donald Trump's name is hardly mentioned. 

When the exit poll results were announced, with Cruz surging ahead of his rivals, the room erupted into cheers and applause. Chants of "Cruz, Cruz, Cruz" followed hurried and excited discussion about the projections. The atmosphere moved up ten gears, as the result which so many had hoped would happen looked like being delivered. A result which three weeks ago looked impossible.

After Wisconsin had been officially called for Cruz (to another round of huge applause and cheers) his victory speech which followed was one which firmly steered his campaign toward November and what he believes now will be his upcoming battle with Hilary Clinton. Indeed, his closing words were "Hilary, get ready. Here we come" and in between, he touched on every core Conservative subject that his crowd wanted to hear. 

Once again he reiterated his position as the only candidate able to beat Donald Trump, calling for unity throughout the Republican Party in his effort to stop the tycoon from winning the party nomination. He now believes he has posited himself as the anti-Trump, and everyone had better now fall in line behind him.

The significance of Cruz's big win here means that the Republican race is now almost certainly going to a contested convention. Mathematically, it now fairly inconceivable that their Trump or Cruz will make it to the 1237 delegate mark necessary to take the nomination outright. For the Democrats, it will at least certainly prolong Hilary Clinton's nomination, at best (for Sanders) take the Democrats too to an open contest at their summer convention. 

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