Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders won the Wisconsin primaries Tuesday night, an important step for both candidates as they look to stop their leading rivals and close their delegate gaps.
For the Republican Texas senator, he's on pace for a nearly double-digit win over Donald Trump, increasing the likelihood of a contested Republican convention this July in Cleveland.
"Tonight is a turning point. It is a rallying cry," Cruz told supporters at his victory party in Milwaukee. "It is a call from the hardworking men and women of Wisconsin to the people of America. We have a choice. A real choice."
Cruz was flanked by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who endorsed his former rival last week. Especially in the most populous southeastern part of the state around Milwaukee, Cruz was bouyed by Walker — who remains very popular with GOP voters — and by the state's influential bloc of conservative radio hosts. Trump, meanwhile, likely made a regrettable miscalculation in forcefully attacking Walker and his record in Wisconsin.
But it was a stark turn for Trump with many demographics he's typically dominated in past GOP contests so far. Cruz edged him out among voters without a college degree, according to exit polls. His one notable victory came among independent voters in the GOP primary, beating Cruz with that bloc by four points. Overall, a 35 percent plurality of Republican primary voters said they were scared about a possible Trump presidency, and 17 percent said they would vote for a third party candidate if he were the nominee, while 10 percent would vote for Hillary Clinton if she is the Democratic nominee.
Cruz will win at least 18 statewide pledged delegates with his win — a number that is sure to grow based on how many congressional district he carries. The Texas senator was performing well in the southeastof the state, where turnout was heavy and there were long lines all day.
Trump could still win in the 3rd and 8th congressional districts, where the real estate mogul made final campaign stops on Monday. Those victories would give him six delegates. He didn't hold any public events Tuesday night, likely anticipating a loss, but was defiant in a Tuesday night campaign statement despite his sound defeat.
"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," Trump's campaign said in a statement. "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."
Ohio Gov. John Kasich will end Tuesday with no delegates. His best shot to pick up any delegates was in the Madison-based 2nd District, where Republicans were more moderate, but Cruz is on pace to win there.
Still, Kasich shows no signs of ending his campaign, even though it is mathematically impossible for him to get to the 1,237 delegates needed before the convention, and instead is banking on floor fight to buoy him. His campaign is looking ahead to the upcoming New York and Pennsylvania primaries to possibly garner more support.
On the Democratic side, Sanders notched an important win over Clinton, building on a slate of recent victories in the Western states: Utah, Idaho, Hawaii, Alaska and Washington.
"With our victory tonight in Wisconsin, we have now won seven out of eight of the last caucuses and primaries ... and we have won almost all of them with overwhelming, landslide numbers," Sanders told supporters in Wyoming, where he's hoping to get another victory in the state's caucuses on Saturday.
According to exit polls, Sanders performed well with his usual strongholds of younger voters while Clinton won voters over the age of 45. She also carried the 16 percent of non-white voters who cast ballots.
Sanders, however, won big among independents who were allowed to cast ballots in Tuesday's open contest. With just over a quarter of voters identifying themselves as independents, Sanders won that bloc 71 percent to 28 percent. But among Democrats, the two candidates ran even.
The final margin will matter for Sanders; Clinton's 263 pledged-delegate advantage heading into Tuesday meant he needed a big victory to be on a pace to catch her. Of the Wisconsin's 86 pledged Democratic delegates, 57 will be awarded proportionally by congressional district, while 19 will be given to the statewide victor. The remaining 10, made up of party leaders and elected officials, also will be awarded proportionally.
Clinton didn't hold a public availability Tuesday night, instead attending a fundraiser in the Bronx, N.Y., where she raised $600,000 for her campaign.