BROOKFIELD, Wis. (AP) — Donald Trump tried to focus his campaign Tuesday on Wisconsin, where he was making his first visit ahead its key primary as controversy cast yet another shadow over his campaign.
Trump told supporters at a rally in Janesville, Wisconsin that “if we win Wisconsin, it’s pretty much over,” noting his significant delegate lead over rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich.
But he arrived in the Badger State fending off another controversy that eclipsed both his message and that of his Republican and Democratic rivals alike, all of whom converged on the state a week from the pivotal vote.
Trump’s campaign manager was charged with misdemeanor battery in Florida Tuesday over an altercation with a reporter this month, prompting his chief Republican rival Ted Cruz to accuse the billionaire front-runner of fostering a culture of “abusive behavior.”
The news overshadowed Trump’s efforts to make gains in Wisconsin ahead of its April 5 primary as Cruz made significant gains and lured support from some of the state’s most influential voices. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a former GOP presidential contender, endorsed Cruz Tuesday, saying that he was backing Cruz over Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich because he believes the Texas senator is best positioned to win the GOP nomination and defeat presumed general elections rival Hillary Clinton.
In an interview with WTMJ’s Sykes, Walker noted Cruz’s fights in Congress with both Republicans and Democrats. “This is a guy who has been consistent in his positions and when push comes to shove, will stand up for the people he represents over the interests in Washington.
Cruz told supporters outside Milwaukee on Tuesday that Walker’s “heroic” battle with unions inspired him and millions of others. The Texas senator called Walker a “strong, principled conservative” and noted that he won three elections over four years. Walker defeated a recall election in 2012 spurred by his push to all-but-eliminate collective bargaining for public workers.
The race could be pivotal in the Republican contest. Trump leads Cruz in the delegate chase, where Kasich lags in a distant third place. Should Cruz win, it would narrow Trump’s already tight path to the nomination and raise the prospect of a contested Republican National Convention in Cleveland this July.
Also campaigning in Milwaukee was Clinton, who vowed to curb gun violence. Clinton’s campaign forum grew emotional as family members spoke of losing children to gun violence. The Democratic presidential candidate says she will “keep talking about this throughout this campaign” and will “keep talking about it and acting on it” if she wins the White House.
Clinton also lashed out at Trump over the controversy surrounding his campaign manager, saying that “ultimately the responsibility is Mr. Trump’s.”
Her rival, Bernie Sanders, zeroed in on voter identification laws at a town hall in Appleton, Wisconsin, Walker have been making it harder for people to participate in the political process. Wisconsin’s voter ID law, which went into effect this year, is one of the most restrictive in the country. Supporters say it helps guard against election fraud.
All three Republicans, Clinton and fellow candidate for the Democratic nomination Bernie Sanders of Vermont were scheduled to participate in an event in Milwaukee Tuesday evening billed as a town hall-style meeting, sponsored by CNN.
Beaumont reported from Des Moines. Associated Press reporter Ken Thomas in Milwaukee, Bryna Godar in Appleton, Wisconsin, Todd Richmond in Waukesha, Wisconsin and Jonathan Lemire in New York contributed to this report.