WISCONSIN — Donald Trump and Sarah Palin barnstormed Wisconsin Saturday in a last-minute push to cut Ted Cruz’s poll lead in the state.
A former Republican congressman tells Breitbart News that top Wisconsin Republican power brokers, including Scott Walker and Reince Preibus, are using Cruz to beat Trump here so that they can broker the convention to pick Wisconsin’s own Paul Ryan as the nominee.
With 72 hours to go until Tuesday’s primary, Trump and Palin braved the April snow to speak with urgency about their mission to defeat Cruz, who is backed by conservative movement activists as well as out-of-state Establishment types. The Cruz campaign says that they’ve seen no visible evidence of a Trump ground game or volunteer operation in the state. So Trump is relying on big rallies in front of packed crowds in auditorium halls.
“People say, I like Trump and I like Cruz. It’s not even a fair comparison. I’m so much better,” Trump said at a rally in Wausau, mocking Washington lobbyists with “Cruz” tattoos on their foreheads as he stood in front of a group of teenage guys in faux-Pink Floyd T-shirts bearing the slogan “Trump’s Wall.”
“Believe me, they have him. They have him, folks,” Trump said of Cruz’s lobbyists.
Both Trump and Palin made a fair share of Green Bay Packers references, telling anecdotes about Packers legends Jerry Kramer and Vince Lombardi (and reminding this reporter of Hunter S. Thompson’s classic assessment upon meeting popular Silent Majority president Richard Nixon: “It wasn’t his factual knowledge of football that stunned me; it was his genuine interest in the game.”)
Trump also made kids in the audience raise their hands and promise never to do drugs. “I won’t say no alcohol, but take it easy on the alcohol,” he added. “Once you get hooked on the alcohol or the drugs, it makes your life very hard. And if you never start taking it, you won’t get hooked.”
“I hope I have some good years left, and I want to give back to the country. I just want to give something back. That’s all it is…This is an opportunity that is so awe-inspiring, to be president of the United States … If we don’t make the country rich again, you’re going to have your Social Security cut by Cruz and Kasich.”
“We have some areas that look like it’s just uniform Trump, and we have others that we’re actually campaigning in a little bit to see if we can get them over,” Trump said.
In Racine, Trump stood on stage, reading off numbers from a page of Wisconsin budget and job statistics, and said of himself, rather tellingly, “I don’t think anybody’s self-funded really since Ross Perot.”
“Wisconsin has to keep wages very depressed, if you don’t keep wages depressed you’re not going to hold your jobs. Which tells you, you have the wrong kinds of jobs, folks, I hate to tell you. We’ll bring the jobs back that you’re going to want to make a little money with.”
“The people get it. The people, the people, the people, really understand. The people really understand.”
Palin, meanwhile, took dead aim at Cruz.
“These paid political hacks and consultants running these other guys’ campaigns who have a track record of losing and losing and losing. But somebody’s such a sucker, they keep hiring the guys and paying them hundreds of thousands of dollars to advise them on campaigns. Well, it’s not going to do him any good.”
Will these rallies help Trump gain on Cruz, who is leading by ten points? Only time will tell. But other signs around the state are pointing to very positive things for Cruz:
The Establishment Is Teaming Up With Cruz — At Least For Now
Trump is fighting against Wisconsin’s governor Scott Walker, who endorsed Cruz, but the problem for Trump is bigger than Walker.
“I think this is a three-corner bank shot. I don’t think there’s that much of a lovefest for Ted Cruz, but they’re just using him to keep Trump below 1,237 delegates so they can broker the convention for Paul Ryan,” former congressman Scott Klug told Breitbart News.
“Reince is very close to Ryan, and Walker is very close to Ryan, so I think it starts there. I know Wisconsin politics well and I know the players well and I think this is well orchestrated,” Klug said.
“They had the opportunity to volunteer for the Cruz campaign for a long time, but it’s only happened in the last couple days.”
The Washington-based Club for Growth PAC is running a TV ad in the state that makes perfectly clear why Ted Cruz is all of a sudden getting the support of Mitt Romney, Lindsey Graham, Jeb Bush, and other people who never would have endorsed him in a million years had Trump not gotten into the race.
If people vote for Ted Cruz, then the party can stop Trump from getting 1,237 delegates, and then the Republicans can broker the convention in Cleveland, where Cruz will be on his own on the second ballot. Cruz is already racing to win a second-ballot majority among delegates in order to stave off an Establishment power play that could see Paul Ryan or another candidate step in to take the nomination.
Trump attacked the Club for Growth’s numbers-minded antics. Trump challenged the group’s math.
The Club For Growth,which asked me for $1,000,000 in an extortion attempt, just put up a Wisconsin ad with incorrect math.What a dumb group!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 1, 2016
The Club For Growth said in their ad that 465 delegates (Cruz) plus 143 delegates (Kasich) is more than my 739 delegates. Try again!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 1, 2016
Cruz Has A Highly Organized Ground Game
“Cruz is doing well in the Milwaukee suburbs, where about 40 percent of the raw numbers in Wisconsin come out of,” former Republican congressman Scott Klug told Breitbart News. “The northern towns, the rural part of the state, that’s where Trump’s strength is … I’d be stunned if Cruz doesn’t win the First, which is Ryan’s district.”
Milwaukee-area conservative radio hosts like Charlie Sykes are hammering away at Trump, and activists are hitting the ground.
Heidi Cruz and Carly Fiorina have teamed up to barnstorm around the state, riling up volunteers at the campaign’s more than thirty makeshift offices in the state.
On a snowy day this week in Wausau, Heidi and Carly showed up to greet about fifty people in a crowded rental unit on the outskirts of town. Heidi was professional to a tee, doggedly going from handshake to handshake with the predominately elderly and older middle-aged group.
“Ted is so great at standing up for what we believe in,” Heidi said when asked casually if she was getting tired of the campaign trail, adding that Ted’s passion keeps them both energized.
Another woman told Heidi that she was praying for Ted. Heidi thanked her.
“And thank you for putting action to all these prayers too, because we have packed offices all over the state,” Heidi added, concluding that she believes her husband will win Wisconsin.
The people there were perfectly friendly but also symptomatic of the Midwestern distaste for coastal outsiders, mocking among themselves Donald Trump’s orange face.
A particularly entrepreneurial 17-year-old volunteer named Bethany Torstenson said that she aspires to one day be a “little like” each of the more constitutionally-inclined Republican candidates, “except for Trump.”
She says, “I don’t want to be part of the circus.”
Trump’s East Coast Style Does Not Adapt Easily Here
Let’s say you’re a reporter from the East Coast (a fiscally conservative one) and you show up to a bar in Madison, Wisconsin wearing a suit sans tie. A guy might look at you and say “I hear the [stock] market is up!” while other people in the bar look away from you. The bartender might not come over to serve you right away. And then you take the hint and leave.
No, Wisconsin is not filled to the brim with such mean-spirited hipsters, but people throughout the state — like in Iowa — do have a fundamental distrust for people from the East Coast. Who from the deep Midwest can try to deny it? Fast-talking New Yorkers are viewed with suspicion at best. A candidate talking about his “winning” poll numbers all the time is considered tacky.
A lot of people in Wisconsin — from the well-represented Bernie Sanders Left to the pro-Cruz Religious Right — really, really, really don’t like Donald Trump.
Consider the states where Trump has won his most significant victories. Trump, the redheaded Scots-Irish candidate, won New Hampshire as well as Alabama, Massachusetts alongside South Carolina. These are East Coast people, and whether they’re in New England or the Deep South, many of them are Catholics or at least rooted in the fiery Scotch-Irish tradition. Trump has consistently led the Republican field among Catholics. Trump leads Hillary Clinton among Catholics, even though a substantial plurality of Catholics are Democrats.
The Germanic Protestants of Wisconsin, raised in a modest culture like in Iowa (where Trump only got 24 percent in a loss), are wary of Trump. They don’t like the bombast. They don’t like the ego. They don’t like the circus. And they really don’t like New York.
How about Lutherans, whose presence in Wisconsin makes it one of the top Lutheran states alongside Minnesota and North and South Dakota? Forget it. Trump draws Lutheran peace protesters. It’s not his personality type.
Also, Wisconsin is a predominately white state that has very few Mexicans in it (as of 2008, Hispanics made up only five percent of the state and were mostly found in clusters). Therefore, the idea of a border wall with Mexico is removed from the experience and concerns of most of these people. Don’t expect immigration to have anywhere near the impact in Wisconsin that it had in Arizona, where Trump won in a landslide.
Breitbart News will continue to monitor all of the events leading up to Tuesday’s Wisconsin primary.