Wisconsin voters are no fans of Donald Trump. They made that pretty clear on Tuesday when they resoundingly rejected him in a way that has even some of the Trump supporters that I know questioning his ability to win the nomination (for more background information, read on here).
Before he was trounced in Wisconsin, six other College Republicans and I went to his town hall with Greta van Susteren (read here for more about our first experience being on Greta’s show). Along the way, we stopped at the Cheese Castle (which is actually a thing) before getting to the Milwaukee campus of the University of Wisconsin. After we parked, we got in a line that was totally different from the one at the John Kasich town hall we were at because there actually was a line.
In fact, the line was pretty long, and there was a small group of protesters chanting as we filtered in (they later received attention for stepping on the American flag). Once we got into the theater where the event would be held, we sat around for a while (sadly none of us were on the main stage this time). As it came time to get ready for the event to start, there were still so many empty seats in the theater that staff had to fill them in to make it look fuller than it was. Before Greta took the stage, her main reporter, Griff Jenkins, stopped by where we were sitting because he asked if anyone in the audience had been to a Greta town hall, and we were the only ones who raised our hands (he also couldn’t fill his crowds elsewhere in Wisconsin, so this was far from a problem unique to the show). So he came over to talk to us “town hall roadies.”
Once Greta came on stage, she gave a shout out to Appleton, Wisconsin, where she is from and to all of her friends who came to see her film today.
Shortly thereafter, Trump came on stage, and the filming began. An hour later, it was over, and Trump did absolutely nothing to clarify where he stands on pretty much any issue. I can’t say that I was too surprised by this. However there definitely was something interesting about hearing from him in person. The only other time I saw him in person was at CPAC last year when he was surrounded by a phalanx of bodyguards and I heard someone shout “what a man of the people!” That was, of course, before his disastrous weekend this year where he bailed on showing up at CPAC.
His complete lack of policy depth speaks for itself, but a few interesting things happened during the commercial breaks. One of the questioners whose brother is a police officer said that he wasn’t sure who he would be voting for in the primary, and during the commercial break he somehow told Trump that he would be supporting him (which he asserted later on) and Trump brought him back to the mike until a staffer had to take him to his seat. During the commercials, he also was asked questions from the audience (in the same way that Kasich did), and for the most part only ever answered the soft ball questions. He gave his thoughts on who would win the Masters and other important topics. After someone shouted countless times what his thoughts on Hezbollah are, he finally responded by saying “I just gave a speech on that. Did you watch it?”
For the most part, the audience was in support of him, and applauded just about everything he said. Some of the more interesting things that he said included “I was an establishment person” nine months ago, and the repeated bashing of Wisconsin’s Governor, Scott Walker. Interestingly, he mostly focused on false, Democratic, talking points and that “I’ve had many more [Time Magazine cover stories] that [Scott Walker].” At one point, I started laughing because he was asked about South Korea and Japan going nuclear, and he started talking about…ISIS.
One other thing that I noticed was that Corey Lewandowski was on stage with Trump once the filming was done. There have been countless reports that his status within the campaign has been downgraded, but he was still there dealing with people in the audience (this is not to say that those reports are wrong).
After the town hall was over, we ate dinner by the waterfront, and then headed on our way home. I felt confident knowing that Wisconsin would not be fertile ground for Trump, and Ted Cruz proved me right. Shortly after we left, Cruz stopped by the same Cheese Castle that we visited, although he refused to wear a cheesehead hat, citing his ironclad rule against “funny hats.”
After having lost Wisconsin, Trump really can’t afford any more screwups, yet in states like Colorado, where his campaign didn’t even field a slate of delegates and had local activists organize it on an impromptu basis, and Indiana, his campaign is totally oblivious as to what’s been going on.
I was at an event yesterday where Nate Silver said that unless Trump does well in Indiana, he’s all but assured to not get the threshold of delegates yesterday. Politico reported that that is all but impossible.
Trump’s Indiana chairman, Rex Early, a former state party chairman who just signed on to Trump’s team last weekend, said he hasn’t explored the delegate process enough to see how it will unfold. He said he intends to pursue a slot as an at-large delegate next week, and other GOP leaders said he’s an example of a self-identified Trump backer who could make it through the process, given his stature within the state party. Informed of the local district’s anti-Trump lean, Early described it as “news to me.” “I’m sure Trump’s going to have some delegates out there,” he said, adding that he hasn’t spoken to Trump’s district backers to see if they have the pulse of the delegate process. “We’re going to do something, but the Trump people are supposedly coming in this weekend. We’ll have a sit-down and see where we are, they can fill me in on what they’ve done.”
Was Wisconsin a turning point? We’ll see soon enough. Trump’s inability to run a campaign may finally be catching up with him.