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Ted Cruz Halts Donald Trump's Momentum With Big Wisconsin Win


And for more on the Republican side of the race, we are joined here in the studio again by NPR's Mara Liasson. Hi, Mara.


SHAPIRO: What do you make of the results in Wisconsin in terms of its impact on the national GOP race?

LIASSON: Well, it tells us that Donald Trump, the front-runner, is not putting this away. As a matter of fact, he is not growing his base. What he got in Wisconsin was 35 percent, which is almost exactly what he's been getting and winning with in most other states, so he didn't underperform. The big question for Republicans is whether Wisconsin is a kind of turning point and if actually is starting to lose some of his support. What was special about Wisconsin is that Trump faced a perfect storm of opposition. He had Scott Walker, who'd been in the race, dropped out, then endorsed Ted Cruz. He had the House Speaker Paul Ryan, who, while he hasn't endorsed anybody, was very critical of Tromp. Then, he had this group of very influential anti-Trump talk show hosts. And he had a very informed, engaged conservative primary electorate. They were more upscale, more educated than the Republican primary voters in other states. That won't be the case in states coming up. And the question for the Stop Trump movement, which was feeling very optimistic after Wisconsin last night, is can they pull this off somewhere else?

SHAPIRO: Well, let's look at what comes up next. You've got New York in two weeks. In three weeks, there's Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Rhode Island. Those sound more like Trump states than Cruz states.

LIASSON: They certainly do. New York is his home state. Upstate New York has been depressed for a decade. Manufacturing left there years ago, so it's chock-full of voters who are very open to Trump's message about how the rest of the world is eating our lunch, taking our jobs, et cetera. The same thing is true with Pennsylvania, which was once described famously by James Carville as Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Alabama in between.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

LIASSON: So it's similar to Appalachian states, sometimes called Pennsyltucky in that area between the two Metropolitan centers, where Trump should also do very, very well.

SHAPIRO: The big question is whether Republicans will have a contested convention in July. How much likelier do the Wisconsin results make that possible outcome?

LIASSON: More likely because, after Trump's loss in Wisconsin, he now needs 56 percent of all the remaining delegates, which means he has to win the remaining states by large margins, which is hard, but not impossible. Just for example, he's polling over 50 percent in one of the New York polls, and he has a 30-point lead over Ted Cruz. There's still lots of conversations in Republican circles about a contested convention - what might happen if Trump is denied the nomination, particularly if he comes into the Cleveland convention with pretty close to 1,237 delegates. Would Trump supporters riot? Would they leave the party? Last night in the exit polls, 55 percent of Wisconsin Republican voters said the nominee should be the one with the most delegates, but not necessary the one who has 1,237.

SHAPIRO: So with all these conversations happening within the Republican Party about what happens at a contested convention, what's the takeaway?

LIASSON: The takeaway is that we might be seeing something we haven't seen for more than 70 years. I think 1948, Thomas Dewey got the nomination on the third ballot. So we might be seeing something that we've never seen before, and there are a lot of complicating factors that have to be worked out. For instance, just one of the many arcane rules we are all going to be learning about about how Republicans nominate their candidates, there's a rule that says whoever's the nominee has to have won a majority of delegates in eight states. That rule was designed to stop someone like Ron Paul from becoming the nominee. And so far, Donald Trump is the only person who's won eight states. Cruz hasn't quite gotten there yet.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Mara Liasson. Thanks, as always.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.