Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders both won decisive victories in Wisconsin last night, blocking the respective front runners in each party from their goal of obtaining a majority of delegates as soon as possible.
Cruz beat Donald Trump by more than 13 points in a winner take all state. Despite the "winner take all" name, some delegates are awarded by winning a Congressional district. Trump will pick up at least three delegates, with six more still undecided, while Cruz takes at least 33. Voters seem to have ignored John Kasich, whose 14% showing leaves him with no delegates.
Trump is expected to do much better next week in the larger New York Primary. New York, however, is proportional, meaning that Cruz, and even Kasich may pick up some delegates there. It is looking more and more difficult for Trump to hit the necessary 1237 by the Convention. Voters seem to have accepted that Cruz is the only viable Trump alternative and are coalescing the anti-Trump support around him. Even if Cruz can close the delegate gap, he will almost certainly be behind Trump's delegate numbers at the convention, making for a nasty fight.
One interesting exit poll response in Wisconsin shows why Republican leaders fear Trump so much. 37% of Republican primary voters said they would not vote for Trump in the general election if he ran against Hillary Clinton. They would either vote for Clinton, stay home, or vote for a third party. With such high negatives within his own party, it is easy to see how Republicans fear a massive loss in November. Most disconcerting for Republicans are the voters who say they will stay home. There is no hope of a split ticket there. Republican races for Congress or State offices will simply see fewer Republican voters at the polls.
Sanders did much better than expected against Hillary Clinton, winning by more than 13 points an taking 45 delegates to Clinton's 31 (with a few still undecided). Unfortunately, for Sanders he needs to average more like 65% of all delegates if he wants to obtain a majority at the Convention. With Clinton victories expected in New York and Pennsylvania, Sanders will only fall further behind.
Still, he may succeed in keeping Clinton from a majority until the final few primaries in June. This will leave Clinton with less time to pivot to the general election. Fortunately for her, the Republican decision will be even later and more controversial.
With neither party willing to rally around the front runner, both contests will continue to move to the end of the primary season, something we have not seen in decades.