Does Wisconsin Signal the End for Trump?

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As late as yesterday afternoon, Donald Trump was still holding out hope for an upset in Wisconsin. “We’re going to see a big surprise,” he predicted to reporters at a campaign stop. And in a year where pundits and polls have been repeatedly proven wrong, it wasn’t hard to imagine that we might. When the results were in, however, the polls held up and Ted Cruz surged to victory with some 48% of the vote. Trump took second place with 35%. Ohio Governor John Kasich pulled up the rear with only 14% of the Wisconsin vote.

While some have tried to retroactively claim that Cruz was always the safe bet to win in Wisconsin, a simple look back at the polls shows that this was not the case. Trump was leading by double-digits only a couple of months ago. Does that mean that Cruz’s message is catching fire? Does it mean that the #NeverTrump donors finally found a way to beat the billionaire? Or does it just mean that Cruz is the beneficiary of a sharply-reduced field?

In some ways, it doesn’t matter. As long as Wisconsin wasn’t some kind of electoral anomaly, the results should be troubling to the Trump campaign. Cruz has long predicted that he will beat Trump resoundingly if he gets the New Yorker one on one. Putting the nearly-irrelevant Kasich aside for a moment, Wisconsin was the first test of that assertion. And regardless of why, Cruz proved that he could indeed beat Trump when the rest of the vote isn’t split six ways to Sunday.

Now the question becomes: Can he keep doing it?

“Tonight is the turning point,” Cruz said in his victory speech. “It is a rallying cry. It is a call from the hard-working men and women of Wisconsin to the people of America: we have a choice. A real choice.”

Trump, though, warned his supporters that a vote for Cruz was a vote for the status quo. He said that the Texas senator was a “Trojan horse, being used by the party bosses attempting to steal the nomination.”

Trump is referring to the increasingly-believable scenario in which the Republican Party – absent any nominee with 1,237 delegates – turns to a “fresh face” like Paul Ryan on one of the later convention ballots. Some believe – with good reason – that if neither Trump nor Cruz get to the magic number, the establishment will find a way to deny both of them the nomination.

Stranger things have happened…although not many. If the RNC does something that stupid, could we see a Trump/Cruz independent ticket in the fall?

Considering the chaos of this election, that outcome would be almost perfect.