Sen. Ted Cruz defeated billionaire businessman Donald Trump in the Wisconsin Republican primary on Tuesday, winning 36 delegates to Trump’s 6. Trump still has a commanding lead, boasting +226 total delegates over Cruz, but the gap is slowly closing. In fact, since Sen. Marco Rubio dropped out of the race, Cruz has won more delegates than Trump:
Rubio dropped out of the race after losing Florida on March 15. Since then, Cruz has won 77 delegates, compared with 65 for Trump. This does not count this past weekend’s results from North Dakota, where most of Cruz’s preferred delegates were elected, because they aren’t formally bound to vote for him.
To be sure, it’s worth adding a number of caveats. There is a small sample size of states, and nearly all of Cruz’s post March 15th delegate haul has come from two states — Utah and Wisconsin — that were already seen as less hospitable to Trump. As the race moves to the Northeast, kicked off by Trump’s home state of New York on April 19th, the numbers could quickly change.
That having been said, it’s worth remembering that a lot of critics of Cruz were arguing that after southern states voted on March 1, all of Cruz’s best states were behind him, and the rest of the primary calendar wasn’t as favorable. They also assailed his strategy of trying to push Rubio out of the race.
But now it’s become pretty clear how the thinned out field has benefited Cruz. Trump is no longer able to hide from scrutiny under the camouflage of a crowded field, forcing him to flail around. Cruz was humanized by Trump’s attacks on his wife Heidi, and took full advantage of Trump’s stumble on abortion. Since Rubio left, Cruz has demonstrated that he’s been able to consolidate the anti-Trump vote.
To be sure, Cruz still has a long, tough road ahead of him. But if he continues to consolidate the anti-Trump vote, he should be able to carry the winner-take-all-states of South Dakota, Montana, and Nebraska. Plus, the goldmine that is California is still up for grabs.
Indeed, Trump’s case for the nomination is growing weaker the closer the convention gets.