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Wisconsin May Play Pivotal Role In The GOP Presidential Race


Our colleague Sarah McCammon has been reporting from the state that gets a chance to make its statement in the presidential race today.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: This week, Wisconsin is feeling more like Iowa.

NANCY NETTEKOVEN: At first - well, because we vote so late, you know, in the primaries, I didn't think we'd be important. But now I see we are because as the fields narrow down...

MCCAMMON: Nancy Nettekoven is supporting Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. At a rally for Cruz in Green Bay this weekend, she said she dreads the thought of Donald Trump as the Republican nominee.

NETTEKOVEN: I won't tell you what I say.

MCCAMMON: Why not?

NETTEKOVEN: I would have to - because it's gross (laughs). Well, I'd have to take barf bag into the voting booth and close my eyes and put my hand on and vote for him. Just because I don't want Hillary to be president.

MCCAMMON: Cruz is hoping his supporters don't have to make that choice. During a town hall in Madison yesterday, Cruz told voters, as he often does, that he's the only one who can beat Trump.


TED CRUZ: There are now effectively two campaigns - two candidates who have any plausible path at winning the Republican nomination - me and Donald Trump.

MCCAMMON: Cruz is leading in recent Wisconsin polls. A sweep here would increase the chances that Trump goes to the Republican convention without enough delegates to win outright. In Milwaukee last night, Trump and his wife, Melania, were greeted by an unusually subdued crowd.


DONALD TRUMP: We did this as a quickie. We wanted to come into this area. We're staying here tonight. And I know you have a baseball game and you have a big basketball game. We're going to go really quickly tonight. But we're going to say one thing - we're going to make America great again. Remember that.

MCCAMMON: It was a big sports night on TV, though Trump told The Washington Post this weekend he's intentionally holding rallies at smaller venues to reduce protests. At the rally, Tom Ross of Menomonee Falls said if Trump loses Wisconsin, the nomination will be decided at the convention.

TOM ROSS: And the establishment will try to overtake it. I mean, it wouldn't be a choice for the American people, which is what this is all about. It's more of a good old boy system, so...

MCCAMMON: Ohio Gov. John Kasich is also hoping to pick up a few delegates in Wisconsin today. It's already mathematically impossible for him to get enough delegates to win. But Kasich is hoping that by staying in the race, he can help make it impossible for Donald Trump as well. Sarah McCammon, NPR News, Milwaukee.

INSKEEP: Now, polling has not always been accurate this primary season. But for what it is worth, here's what it says. An average of recent polls shows Ted Cruz leading Donald Trump in Wisconsin not by 10 points, as one much-publicized survey found, but certainly by several points. On the Democratic side, an average of polls shows Bernie Sanders holding a narrow lead over Hillary Clinton. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.