After a bruising week, Donald Trump could feel moderately grateful to smuggle six delegates away from the Badger State but, really, for the Republican front runner, the past week hadn’t been about Wisconsin. Even the winner on the night, Ted Cruz, probably didn’t feel like he had much reason to crow, though, of course, that didn’t stop him. Cruz had also endured a difficult week and will now look to an immediate future when his political survival might become even trickier. John Kasich, meanwhile, was typically Kasich: lumping along like a big daft horse that has unseated its rider but still dopey enough to think it still in the race. Kasich is simply holding out to play some convention politics should Trump fail to reach the magic 1237 delegates. As it stands, Trump remains the most likely winner of the Republican race with the second-placed best bet filled by some third party who probably looks and sounds like Paul Ryan.
On the Democrat’s side, Bernie Sanders enjoyed another pyrrhic victory that would encourage his nose-ringed groupies to get a few more ‘Feel the Burn’ wrist tattoos but it did little to close the gap to Hillary Clinton. Clinton, meanwhile, is sitting back, resting her feet on the wheel after putting her campaign Winnebago on cruise control. She’s barely making headlines these days, which is perhaps her best strategy in this strangest of political seasons. So long as she keeps picking up superdelegates, she really has no reason to draw attention to her bland campaign. Being quiet and unassuming might be the best tactic when everybody else is running around, flailing their arms, and getting red in the cheeks before running face first into the nearest wall.
Yet what was perhaps most remarkable about Wisconsin was how insignificant it all felt; a mere distraction from the hot snorting wrestling match that’s currently going on away from the cameras for the heart and soul of the Republican party. No trick is too low as fingers reach for nostrils and elbows jam into eye sockets. Figures floating around suggest that over a million dollars of SuperPAC money was sunk into ads supporting Ted Cruz but over two million spent attacking Trump. Pro-Trump ads, in contrast, accounted for a relatively small half a million dollars. In other words: we’re beginning to see real effort on behalf of the GOP establishment putting its weight behind Cruz. It explains the slightly breathless nature of the statement issued by the Trump campaign after the loss. It’s hard not to believe it dictated by Trump himself as he punched the wall of his Trump Tower penthouse.
Donald J. Trump withstood the onslaught of the establishment yet again. Lyin’ Ted Cruz had the Governor of Wisconsin, many conservative talk radio show hosts, and the entire party apparatus behind him. Not only was he propelled by the anti-Trump Super PAC’s spending countless millions of dollars on false advertising against Mr. Trump, but he was coordinating with his own Super PAC’s (which is illegal) who totally control him. Ted Cruz is worse than a puppet — he is a Trojan horse, being used by the party bosses attempting to steal the nomination from Mr. Trump.
Trump’s bad week was partially self inflicted. He has always been his own worst enemy and the most harmful slips of the campaign were always going to come from his lips. The signs of campaign fatigue have definitely been evident and, according to New York magazine, his wearing a bullet proof vest has started to make him feel ‘sweaty and spent after events’. It certainly looked like fatigue when he tied himself into knots when questioned by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews about abortion. His cause has also not been helped by the arrest for ‘battery’ of his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski. That the latter wasn’t immediately laughed away by the media is itself a sign of how Trump is increasingly facing a media hostile to his arguments. It would be putting it mildly to say that Michelle Fields, the alleged victim, has a record of making herself part of her stories and camera footage has done nothing to convince that she hadn’t herself intruded into a candidate’s protected space. Lewandowski clearly pulled her back but with nothing like the violence she’d described. Trump’s real problem is that these trivialities can be turned into a narrative about ‘anti-woman’ or ‘campaign violence’.
That is partly down to the media who, it has to be admitted, sometimes convey an almost unwitting bias in their reporting. This morning’s headlines talk about a collapse in Trump’s vote and how last night was a real setback. Perhaps it was but the eagerness of some to make that call is perhaps more telling. Trump didn’t need Wisconsin and his campaign visits were strategically chosen to secure the few winnable delegates. There are still enough delegates out there for him to win this campaign outright and his chances only became a few percentage points longer last night.
The degree to which Trump is receiving a hammering from the media is in stark contrast to their treatment of Cruz. The story of the so-called ‘DC Madam’ is slowly making its way into the mainstream agenda. It’s not worth repeating the entire history here except to say that phone records apparently exist which might link a current candidate in the Presidential race to a Washington DC prostitution ring. Predictably, Roger Stone has offered his own interpretation of the facts:
Well that means there are four candidates who could be on the list. I doubt Hillary’s on the list, Bernie Sanders, I don’t think he’s on the list. I know Trump’s not on the list. He never has lived in DC. That leaves one person who might be on the list. I guess we’re going to see.
These stories tend to build momentum slowly, as they properly should. Spurious speculation can run unchecked on the internet. Lies quickly evolve into pseudo-truths once they are given authority by conspiracy nuts. This weekend the Supreme Court rejected an appeal to unlock the DC madam’s phone records, leading the usual suspects to suggest a conspiracy. Yet a story is slowly emerging, even if each news network seem to be waiting for a rival to make the next move. For the moment, the rumours are being fed from the fringes of the mainstream where the likes of the National Enquirer drop hints. This week Alex Jones picked up the story of his Info Wars website, a site usually considered the home to theories about the New World Order. That would make these stories easy to dismiss, except MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has also touched the story, as too have the Daily Mail.
That is partly why Wisconsin has felt like a distraction. In the past few days, the mainstream have clearly been sniffing around the rumours. The story might yet explode. Or, of course, it might not. What is certain is that the GOP are now engaged in a cold war with Trump at the very time when their candidate elect is facing allegations about his private life. This is all happening ‘off camera’ and how the media handle these tensions is what makes the run towards the next primary in New York on the 19th so riveting. This morning’s headlines don’t begin to tell the full story of the events happening almost everywhere, it seems, but Wisconsin.