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Trump loss in Wisconsin fuels hopes of Republican opponents
[WASHINGTON] Donald Trump's Republican rivals, reinvigorated by his loss in Wisconsin's primary, doubled down on Wednesday on their efforts to block the billionaire front-runner from capturing the party's presidential nomination.
Ted Cruz's emphatic victory in Wisconsin on Tuesday night dealt momentum to his once long-shot bid to force a contested convention in July by blocking Mr Trump from amassing enough delegates to secure the nomination.
The US senator from Texas made the case he is increasingly viewed as the main Trump alternative by Republicans who cannot bring themselves to support Mr Trump as their nominee for the Nov 8 election.
Allies of Ohio Governor John Kasich, who is positioning himself as a mainstream candidate who could emerge from a contested convention, met in Washington to brainstorm about how they could use obscure procedural rules to their advantage when the party convenes in Cleveland.
One group trying to defeat Mr Trump, who has alarmed many Republican establishment figures with his comments on immigration, Muslims and trade, were hopeful on Wednesday of a cash infusion to fund their efforts.
"Our funders are committed to nominating a principled conservative that can win in November and can help Republicans up and down the ballot," said Katie Packer, who is leading the anti-Trump Our Principals PAC.
"They understand that this is a long slog now and they are supportive of our mission and strategy. I expect that we will have the funds necessary to execute."
US Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, lobbyists and congressional staffers were among those who met with Mr Kasich advisers on Wednesday to discuss what one Republican congressional staffer present admitted was the governor's "long-shot" bid. He has won only his home state in nominating contests so far.
Mr Kasich's campaign has "a plan going into the convention ... and if the convention goes to a brokered convention, they have a legitimate chance," the staffer said.
SHIFT TO NEW YORK
The next big test in stopping Mr Trump will be New York, the state he calls home. A Monmouth University poll of New York Republicans released on Monday showed Mr Trump with 52 per cent of the state's support, a huge lead over Kasich at 25 per cent, and Mr Cruz at 17 per cent ahead of the state's April 19 primary. "It's very important for Mr Trump to bounce back strong. The sense of his inevitability is one of his strengths," said David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Center at Southern Illinois University.
Mr Trump was uncharacteristically silent on Twitter the day after his Wisconsin loss, and his only statement on Tuesday night was written.
Mr Cruz met with black and Hispanic religious leaders on Wednesday in the New York City borough of the Bronx.
"The men and women of Wisconsin resoundingly rejected (Mr Trump's) campaign," Mr Cruz told reporters afterward. "Donald has no solutions to the problems that we're facing."
Republican New York Chairman Ed Cox said he believed the state could decide the nomination. "Given the wide diversity in New York, I think it will be a definitive moment," he said.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll on Tuesday showed Mr Cruz statistically even with Mr Trump among Republicans nationally. His recent gains marked the first time since November that a rival had threatened Mr Trump's standing at the head of the Republican pack.
Mr Trump has 743 delegates, Mr Cruz 517, and Kasich 143, according to an Associated Press count. Mr Trump would need to win about 55 per cent of the remaining delegates to reach the 1,237 threshold. "We fully expect this to go to Cleveland," Packer said of the anti-Trump effort.
CLINTON GOES ON ATTACK
On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders, a Brooklyn-born US senator representing Vermont, is trying to stage a come-from-behind upset of Hillary Clinton, but will struggle to overcome a large deficit in delegates.
Mr Sanders' big win in Wisconsin, which brought his victory tally to six out of the last seven contests, added to Mrs Clinton's frustration over her inability to knock out a rival who has attacked her from the left. That frustration was on full display on Wednesday when the former secretary of state gave two live televised interviews in which she criticised Mr Sanders.
In contrast to a Republican primary season that has been rife with personal insults, the Democrats have largely avoided personal attacks and stuck to policy arguments.
But Mrs Clinton attacked Mr Sanders for his position on guns and said he lacked a depth of policy understanding.
"You can't really help people if you don't know how to do what you say you want to do," Mrs Clinton said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." She criticised him for an interview to New York's Daily News in which he failed to offer specifics on how he would break up large banks - a key part of his campaign message - when he was asked how he would put to use the existing financial regulation Dodd-Frank law. "It's not clear that he knows how Dodd-Frank works," Mrs Clinton told CNN in an interview on Wednesday afternoon.
The Democratic Party nominating race moves to Wyoming on April 9 before New York on April 19.