What to watch for in the Wisconsin primaries

Another step in the road to the White House takes place on Tuesday as the candidates do battle for Wisconsin

Donald Trump, Wisconsin, Primaries

Image: Jim Mone / AP/Press Association Images

Wisconsin, the cheese capital of the United States, becomes the focus of the nation's politicos and journalists on Tuesday as the next primary on the road to the White House takes place.

As it's a winner-take-most contest on the Republican side, and with Bernie Sanders closing the gap on Hillary in recent weeks, here's what to keep an eye out for tonight as the contests begin to heat up.

Donald Trump's momentum may be slowing down

The latest polls in Wisconsin show that Trump is not doing well, despite the fact that his campaign rhetoric to date has all been about winning. The latest poll from Marquette University has him trailing Ted Cruz by 10 points, which means that most of the 42 delegates on offer would go to Cruz and Trump could leave the state with little to show for his efforts.

The magic number that he needs to reach is 1,237 delegates, which would avoid a contested convention this summer for the Republicans, but a series of missteps in recent weeks have seen him struggle, in paritcular with women.

He has a massive unfavourable rating with female voters, which wasn't helped by his comments that women who procure abortions should be punished. He also looked deeply uncomfortable when Anderson Cooper pushed him on his Twitter spat with Cruz over their wives, claiming, much like “a five-year-old”, that he wasn’t the one that started it. Then there was the Corey Lewandowski thing.

None of that has shown him in a particularly good light, and while that hasn’t seen him lose any support, he’s not gaining any either. In fact, he's rarely surged above 40%, and looks set to follow that pattern again in Wisconsin, a sate which, demographically at least, should have been favourable to him.

It's not time for him to panic, but he will look to avoid a contested convention at all costs, and to do that he’ll need to start being a bit more inclusive.

Hillary and the super delegates

Bernie Sanders has been claiming a number of big wins in recent weeks, meaning that he has finally narrowed the gap (somewhat) between himself and Hillary, leading him to suggest that some of her super delegates may change their minds if they see the tide going against their candidate.

While that is unlikely, Sanders has had a big impact on Hillary’s campaign, much more so than she would have liked at this stage. He has long been a backer of the Fight for $15 movement (to raise the minimum wage to $15 in states such as California and New York, where it has recently passed) and Clinton was on hand to celebrate that achievement on Monday despite not supporting it nationwide on a federal level.

If nothing else, some of Bernie’s ideas have now entered the debates and with him predicted to do quite well in Wisconsin, Clinton can’t turn her attention to the general election just yet.  

Will Cruz lighten up his anti-establishment talk?

Cruz has campaigned more or less entirely on the back of him being anti-media, anti-establishment, and anti-anything that has gone on under President Obama. The most fervent part of his rhetoric has been those claims that he has fought the establishment and despite that has made it to where he is now.

He hasn’t won many friends in Washington along the way where, as Bob Dole succinctly put it, “nobody likes him”. Despite that, some people are backing him, such as Jeb(!) Bush and Scott Walker, in the hopes that he will be able to take down Trump.

If he truly wants to win the nomination, he would need to be able to unite a splintered party in the way that Ronald Reagan did after taking on the incumbent Gerald Ford in 1976. That would require a fairly blunt change in tone, as no one on the Republican side seems to have the ability in their locker to bring the party to coalesce around the same, agreed, big ticket issues; to make a room fall into complete silence as they speak, and rise to their feet when they finish.

Then again, neither do the Democrats.

Paul Ryan prepares his parachute

The Speaker of the House of Representatives has asked that he not be talked about in terms of being a possible candidate, and repeatedly denied he is planning a run, but a number of leading Republicans have been sending him Something Happens CDs in the hope that he gets ready to be parachuted in should there be an open convention.

According to Politico, he is seen as somewhat of a dream candidate by the Republican establishment and not only that, but denying any interest in the job also keeps him clear of the mess that has already dragged a number of candidates down...not to mention it keeps him out of Trump’s crosshairs. His face is pretty fresh, as Karl Rove hinted, and he would have a realistic chance of beating Hillary Clinton in the general. Watch this space as the maths behind the convention get more and more complicated.