Donald Trump’s loss in Wisconsin — his biggest defeat in a primary so far — is being interpreted as a sign that he lost ground after several prominent miscues on abortion and other issues.
But the real surprise Tuesday night was not the weakness of Mr. Trump but the strength of Ted Cruz. It was the first contest after the departure of Marco Rubio that was truly competitive, and it looks as if Mr. Cruz benefited a lot. In fact, with a final result of 48 percent, he won a larger share of the vote than in any primary this year.
It appears that many moderate voters, who have long been the biggest obstacle to Mr. Cruz, finally broke his way. According to exit polls, Mr. Cruz won 29 percent of them — far higher than the 12 percent he won in Michigan and 15 percent in Illinois. Mr. Kasich’s share of the vote among both self-described “moderate” and “somewhat conservative” voters dropped.
Perhaps nothing exemplified Mr. Cruz’s newfound competitiveness in moderate areas better than Madison’s Dane County, where he won by a comfortable eight-point margin and 38 percent of the vote. Just a couple of weeks ago, he finished third in places like Ann Arbor, Mich., and Chicago.Michael Barone writes:
In a recent column I noted that Trump has run badly in places with high social capital or social connectedness and has run strongest in places with low social capital or social connectedness. This analysis has apparently been picked up on the by the astute proprietor of the fivethirtyeight.com site Nate Silver, who writes,"As we talked about on the podcast Monday, Wisconsinites (and other people in the upper Midwest) have high levels of social connectivity, which seems to be a correlate of the #NeverTrump vote. Trump voters are fairly socially isolated, by contrast."
Some upcoming contests are in states with lower levels of social connectedness. But the key factor here is the degree of social connectedness among Republican primary voters. In states where they are a very small percentage of total voters it may be very low, as in Massachusetts where Trump got 49 percent of the vote, his best primary percentage anywhere. New York and New Jersey, to varying and lesser extents, may fall into this category. Nebraska and Indiana, which vote in May, may have Republican electorates relatively high in social connectivity. California, which votes on June 7 and elects 13 delegates winner-take-all statewide and 159 winner-take-all in its 53 congressional districts, is a mystery in this regard, at least to me.