- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The GOP presidential primary in Wisconsin was too close to call shortly after polls closed Tuesday, with all sides hoping a win would reshape the campaign in their favor.

Businessman Donald Trump was looking to wipe away any doubt about his ability to collect the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the GOP nomination with a come-from-behind win.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, meanwhile, touted the race as a turning point, and said a victory would prove the GOP was starting to coalesce around his candidacy.

Mr. Trump looked to recover from a bad week, and plunged into a blitz of rallies, where his wife, Melania, made a rare campaign appearance, as part of an effort to soften Mr. Trump’s image in the eyes of women voters.

The effort underscored the Trump camp’s push to righten the ship after campaign manager was charged with simple assault and he stumbled over his stance on abortion.

The good news for Mr. Trump is that the race now moves to east to his home state of New York, which hold an April 19 primary, and then jumps to April 26 contests in Connecticut, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island, which Mr. Trump is also thought to be running well.

Heading into the race, Mr. Cruz was well-positioned for a win, according to latest polls, which would provide him with more ammunition for his argument the anti-Trump forces within the GOP should rally behind him and that Gov. John Kasich of Ohio should leave the race.

Mr. Trump had closed out the month of March with mixed results, winning all 58 delegates out of Arizona, and losing out on all 40 delegates to Mr. Cruz in Utah.

The bad news for Mr. Trump continued in the so-called “shadow primary,” with the Cruz camp claiming an 18-delegate victory at the North Dakota GOP state convention over the weekend - upping the stakes in Wisconsin, where another 42 delegates were on the line.

Mr. Trump is hoping to avoid a contested convention, which would give most delegates - many of them party regulars that are not thrilled with Mr. Trump - the chance to cast their support behind whoever they please after the first ballot.

Mr. Trump has said that it would be hard for the GOP to redirect the nomination to another candidate if he entered the convention close to the magic number of delegates needed.

Exit polls out of Wisconsin showed that 56 percent of GOP voters said the candidates that has collected the most votes in the primaries should win the party’s nomination. Four in 10, meanwhile, said they favor a contested convention, and that delegates should tap the nominee.

Mr. Trump’s fingerprints were all over the exit polls, with seven in ten voters saying they support his proposal to put a temporary freeze on non-US Muslims entering the country.

Exit polls also showed that trade weighed heavily on the minds of Republican voters, with over half of them saying the United States was getting the raw end of trade deals.

Six in ten GOP voters said illegal immigrants should be offered a path to citizenship, which is higher than what came out of most other primary states, and a third called for their deportation.

Half of the voters sought a candidate with political experience, and about half said they wanted a candidate from outside the political establishment.

Mr. Cruz, meanwhile, was seen as the GOP’s best bet to beat Hillary Clinton in a general election match-up, followed by Mr. Trump and Mr. Kasich.

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