Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas appears on the verge of an important victory in Tuesday’s Wisconsin primary if the latest polls showing him with a 10-point lead over GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump hold up.
A Cruz victory over the billionaire businessman and Ohio Gov. John Kasich could portend a pivotal moment in the long-shot effort within the party to stop Trump from gaining the presidential nomination.
In many ways, Wisconsin voters will be obliged to hold their noses and make a choice amid one of the nastiest campaigns in memory. Cruz and Trump – among other things – have feuded over whose wife was more attractive and which of the two candidates was the bigger liar. Trump has accused “Lying Ted” of distorting his record, while Cruz has repeatedly accused Trump of leaking a salacious story about his alleged extra-marital affairs to the National Enquirer.
Neither candidate is likeable, although the bombastic, insulting Trump is in a league by himself –suffering from historically high negative ratings among voters, especially women, African Americans and Hispanics. And let’s not forget Muslims, who he wants to bar from entering the country.
A recent Fox Business poll showed Cruz leading Trump in Wisconsin, 42 percent to 32 percent, with Kasich trailing in third place with 19 percent.
The poll painted a picture of a highly fractured GOP electorate. Trump was leading among GOP-leaning independents, but Cruz was crushing Trump and Kasich among nearly every other major demographic, including women, “very conservative” people, white evangelical Christians and better educated and wealthier Americans. Even among less educated voters – one of Trump’s mainstays nationally, Cruz was doing better, 44 percent to 34 percent.
While Trump currently leads Cruz in the polls by an average of 10 percentage points, there is little doubt that the two archrivals are attracting Republicans in Wisconsin and elsewhere who have very different perceptions of the state of the world and the key issues of the campaign.
Trump and Cruz have both cast themselves as anti-establishment “outsiders” who would dismantle much of President Obama’s legacy, beginning with the Affordable Care Act. Both have taken strong, anti-abortion stands, although Trump has flip-flopped on the issue over the years. He was forced to backtrack last week after saying during an interview on MSNBC that he would “punish” women for having an abortion if Roe v. Wade were overturned.
And both candidates have promised to destroy or “carpet bomb” ISIS terrorists overseas, build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to tighten security and arrest and deport more than 11 million illegal immigrants currently living in the country. Cruz, a former Texas solicitor general, is a strict constitutional constructionist while Trump seems to make up positions as he goes along.
The Pew Research Center published a comprehensive study of Democratic and Republican voters’ attitudes on a broad range of subjects last week that provided additional insight into the thinking of the Republicans backing Trump, Cruz and Kasich. Surprisingly, Republicans and others aren’t nearly as “angry” with the federal government as one might guess from all the media hype about Trump’s appeal to enraged, disaffected white men.
Some 22 percent of registered voters told Pew they are “angry” at the federal government, while 59 percent are “frustrated” and 17 percent are pretty much content. This hasn’t changed much in recent years, according to the study.
It’s no surprise that Democrats and Republicans see things much differently through their political prism. About 35 percent of all Republicans and GOP-leaning voters are inclined to vent their anger at the government compared with 10 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. And Trump supporters, by far, are the angriest of this group: 50 percent of his supporters say they are angry with the government, compared with 30 percent of Cruz backers and just 18 percent of Kasich’s supporters.
The new Pew survey of 2,254 adults conducted March 17 through 27 also reveals that Trump’s supporters are far more pessimistic about their lives, their government and their futures than are Cruz and Kasich backers.
For instance, 75 percent of Trump supporters told the Pew pollsters that life for “people like me” has gotten a lot worse over the past half century, while 63 percent of Cruz supporters shared that view and only 54 percent of Kasich supporters agreed. By comparison, 46 percent of all registered voters interviewed believe that things had gotten worse, while 34 percent said things had actually gotten better and 14 percent said there is no difference.
The survey results also documented much higher levels of dissatisfaction among Trump supporters than others over the federal government, the state of the economy and their personal finances. Forty-eight percent of Trump supporters rated U.S. economic conditions as “poor, while no more than a third of Cruz or Kasich backers share that sentiment. And 50 percent of Trump’s supporters say they are not satisfied with their financial situations, far more than the percentage of Cruz and Kasich supporters who feel the same way.
“The major issues that have emerged in the presidential campaign reveal divisions within the two parties in different ways,” the Pew report stated. “But for the most part, the gaps are much wider among Republican voters than among Democrats, especially when it comes to opinions about immigrants and immigration policy, government scrutiny of Muslims in the United States, and abortion and other social issues.
Here are several examples:
- On whether immigrants today are a burden on our country, 69 percent of Trump supporters agreed with that compared to 51 percent of Cruz backers and 40 percent of Kasich’s supporters.
- On whether U.S. Muslims should be subjected to greater scrutiny in their communities, 64 percent of Trump backers said yes to 53 percent for Cruz supporters and 37 percent for Kasich’s backers.
- On whether free trade is good for the U.S., only 27 percent of Trump supporters agreed with that, to 48 percent of Cruz supporters and 44 percent of Kasich’s.
- On whether abortion should be legal in most cases, 45 percent of Trump’s backers said yes, compared to only 23 percent of Cruz’s supporters and 49 percent of Kasich’s backers.