Republican front-runner Donald Trump had a rough go at it last week in the Badger State. It began with a series of local talk radio interviews, generally considered friendly terrain for Trump, but quickly turned out to be . . . well, not so friendly.
In just three interviews, Trump was forced to defend the way he talked about women, his inability to be a unifying force in the party, and the lack of detail he devotes to any particular topic in his platform. Trump learned that Wisconsin's talk radio doesn't take its cue from Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, who seem more attracted to the flare of populism than to the rigors of conservatism.
As noted by a number of publications, Wisconsin's electorate is different because they've been battle-tested unlike any state in the union. Kimberly Strassel, in her column for the Wall Street Journal, put it this way:
“Wisconsin has been in continuous political warfare for six years. Over that time, Republicans lived through Gov. Scott Walker ’s epic battle for his Act 10 public-sector bargaining reform; judicial races; a Senate recall effort; a gubernatorial recall effort; a political assault in a vicious John Doe probe; another election cycle; campaign-finance reform; an overhaul of the state’s ethics body; a right-to-work law; and prevailing-wage reform . . . the result is a conservative electorate that is highly informed, highly energized and highly involved. The fights so far have given voters an acute appreciation of the conservative principles at stake, and a pride in defeating union and liberal priorities. They have radar sensitive to “fake” Republicans, and many aren’t keen on what they are hearing from Mr. Trump.”
The one thing warfare tends to do is unite factions, otherwise divergent, into broader coalitions. Intra-party cannibalism is not really our style. We prefer optimism to fear, civility to hostility, reform to bluster, and most importantly, we prefer conservatism to populism.
Today, Wisconsin has an opportunity to be the last line of defense, a firewall if you will, to the systemic threat of a Trump nomination. Losing most of Wisconsin’s 42 delegates would make the 1,237-delegate hurdle for Trump a very steep one indeed. It would make a win in Pennsylvania or New Jersey for instance, absolutely necessary to keep his bid for the nomination alive. Conversely, if Trump were to win Wisconsin, the momentum he would gain heading to the east coast would be formidable.
Such is the importance and strength of the #NeverTrump movement. It’s not just built on the idea that a Trump nomination would set up Republicans for historic losses in Congress or even further down-ballot across the country, but could sufficiently damage the party’s ability to rebrand and rebuild beyond November.
Already, Wisconsin has played a pivotal role in unmasking a fraud. Perhaps it's time to send him packing.
What say you Wisconsin?