Donald Trump's Wisconsin loss increases the chances of a contested convention

By Tierney McAfee
Updated April 06, 2016 01:45 PM
Credit: Getty (2)

Party front-runners Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton each lost Tuesday’s key Wisconsin primary by 13 points to their respective rivals, Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders.

So what do these results mean – and where do the candidates go from here?

Could Sanders’ Wisconsin victory help him win the nomination?

Wisconsin is a significant victory for the Vermont senator and will likely earn him millions in fundraising dollars, and give him a momentum boost going into the upcoming New York primary. But the Midwestern state is not a game-changer in the vein of Florida or Ohio. Sanders didn’t win Wisconsin by quite enough to catch up to Clinton on the delegates score, or on the overall vote total, according to The Daily Beast.

As Clinton pointed out on The View Tuesday morning, she had 2.5 million more votes than Sanders going into Wisconsin (a figure The Washington Post fact-checked down to 2.4 million), with Sanders cracking only a small dent in that with his victory Tuesday night.

What’s next for Clinton and Sanders?

For Sanders, the real prize would be his native New York on April 19. Some analysts see the primary as the Democratic socialist’s last chance. Sanders and Clinton, a former New York senator, are gearing up for the crucial contest by participating in a CNN and NY1 debate in Brooklyn on April 14. But first, the two Democrats are headed to Pennsylvania to campaign on Wednesday and Thursday.

How much did Trump’s loss hurt him?

While Clinton “remains almost certain to ultimately secure the Democratic nomination,” Trump’s double-digit loss in Wisconsin carries more weight, according to The Washington Post‘s Daily 202, which reports: “The Donald now finds himself facing an emboldened opposition and an increasingly likely contested convention.”

Will there be a contested convention?

The 36 delegates Cruz picked up in Wisconsin have indeed increased the likelihood of a fight at the convention, although Trump still has a slim chance of claiming the nomination by the final primary day on June 7. He must win 57 percent of the remaining delegates to win the nomination before the convention kicks off on July 18. So far, he is winning just 46 percent, according to the Associated Press.

“Before Wisconsin there was a 50-50 chance of a contested convention. After Wisconsin it is 80 percent,” ABC News chief political analyst Matthew Dowd tells PEOPLE. “Chances are now low for Trump to get a majority of delegates through the primary process. Right now I would say Trump finalizes the process in June with a little over 1,100 delegates, with at least a 300-delegate lead over Cruz. And my guess is his best vote number is on the first ballot. He could still win the first ballot if he is able to wrangle enough unpledged delegates. But that is dicey.”

“Trump needs to pull together a real campaign quickly and begin to conduct himself in a more presidential way. I don’t know if either are possible,” Dowd adds. “And this will determine if Wisconsin was his Waterloo or his Alamo.”

Trump’s loss on Tuesday places even more importance on the five remaining winner-take-all states: Delaware, Nebraska, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota. But first, Trump is setting his sights on his native New York, where he will hold a large rally on Long Island Wednesday night.

“I am so happy that Wisconsin is over,” Carl Paladino, one of Trump’s state chairmen, tells The New York Times on Tuesday. “They already have rigor mortis setting in on Donald Trump. Now, you’re gonna see what’s gonna happen starting tomorrow.”

“I think it’s just awesome, man. New Yorkers – we’re ready. He’s our native son.”

What does Cruz need to do to win the nomination?

Meanwhile, Cruz’ decisive win in Wisconsin has CNN calling him the “odds-on favorite” to win the nomination.

“Give Cruz credit: When he needs to win, he wins,” writes The Fix’s Chris Cillizza. “If he had lost Wisconsin, pressure would have ramped up to bow to the reality of Trump as nominee. Now, he can make the case that Wisconsin fundamentally changed the trajectory of the race For Cruz, the rest of the primary is about two things: 1) Keeping Trump under the 1,237 delegates needed to formally clinch the nomination, and 2) Positioning himself as the only Trump alternative. Cruz took a big step in the right direction on both fronts in Wisconsin.”

While Trump may very well still win the nomination, ABC political director Rick Klein points out, “A hard truth is emerging for the GOP: At a moment where the frontrunner should be getting stronger, Trump is getting weaker.”

Critics were quick to jump on Trump’s statement in the wake of his loss in Wisconsin. That statement read: “Donald J. Trump withstood the onslaught of the establishment yet again. Lyin’ Ted Cruz had the Governor of Wisconsin, many conservative talk radio show hosts, and the entire party apparatus behind him. Not only was he propelled by the anti-Trump Super PAC’s spending countless millions of dollars on false advertising against Mr. Trump, but he was coordinating with his own Super PAC’s (which is illegal) who totally control him. Ted Cruz is worse than a puppet – he is a Trojan horse, being used by the party bosses attempting to steal the nomination from Mr. Trump. We have total confidence that Mr. Trump will go on to win in New York, where he holds a substantial lead in all the polls, and beyond.”

“Trump’s reaction to losing was that of an individual with low self-esteem – he didn’t make an appearance, and instead issued a defensive statement through a spokesperson,” GOP consultant Jean Card, a former Bush administration official, tells PEOPLE.

“This lack of self-esteem – which he covers up so stereotypically with excessive ego – is his Achilles’ heel, revealing itself painfully right before his home state votes on his candidacy.”

Trump’s stumbles in recent weeks aren’t lost on GOP elders. As Newt Gingrich said on Fox News Tuesday evening, “He’s done a lot of things right, but he is also like a rookie quarterback in the Super Bowl. This is the big leagues. It gets much tougher as it goes on. But he is going to have to improve his game if he’s gonna win in the end.”