Voters in Wisconsin went to the polls Tuesday, but the five remaining candidates appeared to be settling in for a drawn out nomination process.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas was likely to win the day’s GOP contest over national front-runner Donald Trump, according to most polls. And on the Democratic side, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont appeared in recent surveys to be the favorite ahead of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Although Wisconsin only offers a handful of delegates — 42 total for Republicans and 86 tied directly to the Democratic primary — Tuesday’s contests will serve a pivotal role in candidates’ momentum ahead of the important New York primaries later this month.
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Early exit polls painted a picture of the Wisconsin electorate, with stark differences between the two parties. For example, 78 percent of Wisconsin primary Democratic voters said they want their next president to have political experience. Only 46 percent of GOP voters in Tuesday’s exit polls agreed, and 48 percent said they want a candidate who is outside the establishment.
Among Wisconsin Republican primary voters, 31 percent identified as very conservative and 43 percent as somewhat conservative, according to NBC News early exit polls. Democrats in the state, meanwhile, have grown more likely to identify as “very liberal,” exit polls showed: A full 25 percent described themselves that way this year, while only 16 percent did in 2008.
Of those Democratic voters, 54 percent said they want a leader who will continue with President Barack Obama’s policies, but 31 percent said they hope for more liberal policies. Another exit poll result showed that 55 percent of Wisconsin Democratic voters think Clinton can beat Trump in the November general election, while only 42 percent said they thought Sanders could beat him, according to NBC.
Sanders did top Clinton, however, on questions of perceived honesty: About 90 percent of Democratic Wisconsin voters said they thought the senator was honest and trustworthy, while only 59 percent said the same about Clinton, according to NBC’s exit polls.
On the Republican side of the field, only 65 percent of Wisconsin GOP voters said they would vote for Cruz in the general election if he wins the nomination — with the rest either picking another candidate or just staying home. For a Trump-led GOP ticket, only 61 percent said they would vote for the Republican nominee.
Nationally, Clinton edges out Sanders in nearly every major poll, and she leads the senator in overall Democratic delegates so far — 1,692 to 1,012, according to NBC News’ assignment of pledged and “super” delegates.
In the GOP race, Trump is the front-runner in both delegates and national polls, but he faces stiff competition from Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Neither is likely to garner enough delegates to win the Republican nomination outright, but they could challenge Trump at the GOP National Convention in July.