• WisPolitics

Thursday, March 31, 2016

 6:44 PM 

Fox poll: Cruz up 10, Sanders up 5 in Wisconsin presidential primaries

Ted Cruz led Donald Trump by 10 points in Wisconsin's GOP presidential primary, while Bernie Sanders had a 5-point advantage over Hillary Clinton in a new Fox Business Network survey.

The poll found Cruz favored by 42 percent of likely GOP primary voters, while 32 backed Trump. John Kasich was third at 19 percent. 

On the Dem side, Sanders was at 48 percent, while Clinton was favored by 43 percent of likely Dem primary voters.

The poll also included two questions on a hypothetical Clinton-Trump November match up. Forty-nine percent of the overall sample would back Clinton, while 35 percent would support Trump.

Sixty-four percent said they would be satisfied voting for either one, while 26 percent would seriously consider a third-party candidate and 7 percent would not cast a vote for president.

The telephone survey of 1,602 likely primary voters was conducted March 28-30 using live interviews over landlines and cell phones. Results for the full sample had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. Results for the 860 likely Dem primary voters surveyed had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, while the margin of error was plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for the 742 likely GOP primary voters polled.

-- By JR Ross

 5:03 PM 

Larson, Abele clash at UW-Milwaukee debate

Milwaukee County Exec candidate Chris Larson today avoided a pledge to serve a full term if elected, while incumbent Chris Abele repeated his promise to stay all four years if re-elected.

The two were questioned about that in a WisPolitics.com debate today at UW-Milwaukee in the context of their names being mentioned as possible guv candidates in 2018. The county exec election is Tuesday.

"Yes, I will pledge not to run," said Abele, adding it's never been his goal to "put myself on a track for a political career."

Larson answered, "That's my plan."

Pressed by reporters afterward, Larson still would not say whether he'd consider a gubernatorial run.

"I'm just focused on winning this election," he said.

Larson, who narrowly won the primary, pressured Abele to acknowledge ongoing talks regarding the possible sale of county-owned land in Wauwatosa to health care institutions at the county's Regional Medical Complex.

Larson, a former County Board supervisor who often knocked what he describes as Abele's lust for power, said, "They're talking about selling the land out there. Has anybody else heard about this? This is where the rubber hits the road, where concentrated power of land sales, where things don't even need to be made public as they're ongoing, becomes a problem."

Abele said talks have been going on "for a long time," with "institutions" at the Medical Complex.

"One of the institutions we're talking about, who are interested in the land, we leased it to them -- right now, they don't pay taxes on that land," Abele said. "We are, the county, subsidizing them at a level that was intended to help them grow like they have. It was not intended forever to basically be, 'Hey, here's a subsidy even though now you're able to make it' and by being able to work with them to change that, allowing us to have more resources."

But Abele would neither specify which tracts of land nor the names of possible buyers. He also didn't explain how the sale to nonprofit institutions, which traditionally do not pay property taxes, would generate revenue for the county. The medical complex grounds contains Froedtert Hospital, the Medical College of Wisconsin, Children's Hospital of Wisconsin and several other medical clinics and laboratories.

"There, was that so hard to say? There's a land sale being negotiated on the County Grounds," Larson said.

Afterward, Larson told reporters he doesn't know any specific details.

"We haven't been able to get people on record to confirm it, but we've got it from multiple people, multiple sources, which is why we brought it up today," he said. "Abele pretty much confirmed that we're looking to sell off some land, but the price, we don't know. Who's involved? We don't know."

Abele told reporters afterward that thorough discussions are needed to ensure taxpayers get something in return and that he's "very excited" about a possible deal. He added that relations "have never been better" with the occupants.

During the debate, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke drew harsh disapproval from Abele, who said while he "would love to have a great relationship" with Clarke, it's necessary to hold fellow county officials accountable for their actions and "how we comport ourselves.''

"Clarke has said things on the national stage that aren't just wrong, aren't just untrue, but are unbelievably unproductive and, in fact, I think they sometimes serve to give license to intolerance and divisiveness," Abele said.

Larson, on the other hand, said he "respects the office" of the sheriff and even though he and Clarke "won't be tailgating anytime soon ... there are things that we share that we want to tackle," such as drunken driving. Larson also accused Abele of giving Clarke the leftover crumbs from the county budget.

"The sheriff is left trying to patch together his budget, which compromises public safety," Larson said.

Abele responded that the Sheriff's Department comprises the largest portion of the county's tax levy. He said there is redundancy in public safety services because each community in Milwaukee County has its own police department.

In talking to reporters later, both candidates agreed it's a good idea to move youth correctional facilities to Milwaukee County in the wake of turmoil at Lincoln Hills.

"It's about time," Larson told reporters. "What's happening right now is criminal. As county executive, we'll make motions to make sure that happens as soon as possible."

Abele said such a move would eliminate three-hour trips for many families of youth offenders and would let the county "keep an eye on programming so it doesn't escalate to the level it did at Lincoln Hills."

A small group of anti-Abele protesters made their voices heard in the lobby of Zelazo Center at UW-Milwaukee, with many holding signs in support of public transit workers, and others holding an effigy of the county exec.

Abele and bus drivers, who are unionized, clashed last year over wages and benefits, causing a strike.

Some protesters entered the debate hall and interrupted Abele with shouts of, "Abele did not put more money into transit service -- that is a lie." and "Chris Abele does not support good jobs and living wages."

Another stood up and said, "Chris Abele does not care about the black community. He has two complaints against him for racial discrimination."

Afterward, Larson told reporters protests have been happening everywhere Abele goes.

"That's what happens when you try to shut out the public for five years -- people get upset," Larson said. "This the guy who ended up causing the transit strike last summer in the middle of Summerfest, he doesn't play well with others. He doesn't work with leaders in the community."

Abele told reporters he's focused on "solutions and getting things done." The protesters, Abele said, "are a reflection of something that's been true through the history of our government. Anytime someone in elected office is trying to make any kind of significant change, it almost never isn't accompanied by somebody who is upset about it. And that's all right, that's part of our system."

Without addressing the discrimination complaints directly, Abele said he is proud he carefully vets all potential hires.

Listen to the debate audio:

Listen to Abele's Q&A with reporters:

Listen to Larson's Q&A with reporters:

-- By Kay Nolan

 3:32 PM 

Al Ott announces retirement from Assembly

GOP state Rep. Al Ott, first elected to the Assembly in 1986, announced today he will not seek re-election this fall.

"Thirty years ago, I ran for the state Assembly out of my genuine desire to serve the public and bring the voice of northeast Wisconsin to Madison," Ott said. "While much has changed during my tenure, my commitment to my constituents and my desire to enact sound public policy has not. I am truly blessed and humbled to have had this opportunity."

Ott, R-Forest Junction, is the longest continuously serving member of the Assembly. Rep. Fred Kessler, D-Milwaukee, served in the body in the 1960s. But he left for more than three decades before he was elected again in 2004. Likewise, Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, was first elected in 1984 but left in the early 1990s before winning his current seat in 2008.

Ott becomes the ninth member of the Legislature to opt against seeking re-election this fall. The two Dems are Sen. Nikiya Harris Dodd, of Milwaukee, and Rep. Andy Jorgensen, of Milton. The Republicans are: Sens. Rick Gudex, of Fond du Lac, and Mary Lazich, of New Berlin, and Reps. Dave Heaton, of Wausau; Dean Knudson, of Hudson; Tom Larson, of Colfax; and John Murtha, of Baldwin.

-- By JR Ross

 2:07 PM 

PPP: Cruz, Trump close; Sanders leads Clinton

A new survey from the Dem firm Public Policy Polling has Ted Cruz and Donald Trump about even in Wisconsin among likely primary voters, while Bernie Sanders led Hillary Clinton.

The survey, released one day after the Marquette University Law School Poll, also found Russ Feingold leading Ron Johnson by 7 percentage points among registered voters. Marquette had the race at a 5-point spread in Feingold’s favor among registered voters.

PPP, which conducted the poll on behalf of the progressive group VoteVets Action Fund, found Cruz at 38 percent among likely GOP primary voters and Trump at 37 percent. John Kasich was at 17 percent.

On the Dem side, Sanders was backed by 49 percent of likely primary voters, while Clinton was at 43. Clinton led 50-42 among self-identified Dems, but Sanders was up 62-31 among independents who plan to vote in Wisconsin’s open primary.

In the Senate race, Feingold led Johnson 46-39 among registered voters. 

The PPP survey was conducted March 28 and 29, just as the presidential visits were heating up in Wisconsin and Gov. Scott Walker endorsed Cruz. The firm used automated calls to survey 1,397 registered voters, and that sample had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points. 

Additionally, the firm interviewed 768 likely GOP primary voters and 720 likely Dem primary voters. The margins of error for those samples were plus or minus 3.5 and 3.7 percentage points, respectively.

-- By JR Ross

 12:27 PM 

Cruz debuts TV ad featuring Walker

Ted Cruz debuted a new TV ad today that features Gov. Scott Walker touting his endorsement of the Texas senator.

Walker opens the spot by looking directly into the camera and saying jobs, freedom and security are at stake, which is why he’s backing Cruz.

The ad then shows shots of Cruz talking to others as Walker calls him a constitutional conservative who will challenge the status quo, “just like we’ve done in Wisconsin.”

“On Tuesday, please join me in supporting Ted Cruz -- the only conservative who can beat Hillary Clinton and reignite America’s promise,” Walker says to close the spot.

-- By JR Ross

 8:56 AM 

Surrogates stumping in Wisconsin today

The state will get a break today from the flurry of presidential campaign visits, but some candidates have surrogates visiting.

Sen. Ted Cruz's wife, Heidi, and Carly Fiorina will campaign in Green Bay, Appleton and Wausau.

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., has stops for Clinton planned in Waukesha, Racine and two in Milwaukee.

Meanwhile, Bill Clinton will campaign in Appleton tomorrow.

Several candidates, though, plan to be back Friday and Saturday.

The Republican Party of Milwaukee on Friday is hosting the "Wisconsin Decides 2016" with Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The fish fry event will be at Serb Hall in Milwaukee.

The state GOP announced this morning Sarah Palin will appear at the Milwaukee event to speak on behalf of Donald Trump's campaign.

On Saturday, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton will be at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee to speak at the Dem Party's annual Founder's Day Dinner. Others scheduled to speak at the event are: U.S. Sens. Al Franken, D-Minn., and Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison; U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee; and former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton.

Sanders also will be in Sheboygan and Green Bay on Friday, and he has a rally at the Kohl Center on the UW-Madison campus Sunday.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

 5:14 PM 

Cruz unveils new Wisconsin TV ad

Ted Cruz has launched a new TV ad in Wisconsin that calls the state “a beautiful place where the people place solutions over slogans.”

In the 60-second spot, Cruz says his campaigns is for “working moms, the truck drivers, the mechanics and the machinists with calluses on their hands” as images of farm fields and factories appear on the screen.

The spot also features Cruz sitting at a table. He looks into the camera and promises to repeal Obamacare, peel back the EPA “and all the burdensome regulations that are killing small businesses and manufacturing.”

He also promises to stand up for fair trade and bring jobs back from China.

“We will see wages going up. We’ll see opportunity again,” Cruz says. “We’ll see a president who will stand with the people of Wisconsin and Americans everywhere.”

-- By JR Ross

 4:01 PM 

Sanders goes after Walker in Madison campaign stop

Bernie Sanders today bookended his second Madison visit in a week by ripping Gov. Scott Walker for “voter suppression.”

The Vermont senator, speaking to a packed 1,675-capacity Orpheum Theater, hit on all of his major campaign points and tore into his Dem primary opponent, Hillary Clinton, and GOP front-runner Donald Trump. He also made passing reference to the Marquette University Law School Poll that today showed him leading Clinton, and he predicted a victory in the Wisconsin primary Tuesday if voter turnout is high.

But he reserved his sharpest criticism, and drew the loudest boos, for Walker

Sanders called it an outrage that Wisconsin has a governor who seems to be “working overtime” to suppress the vote. And saying Walker was “subsidized by the Koch brothers,” Sanders promised to do everything he can to overturn the Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court decision.

“If you don’t have the guts to participate in free, fair and open elections,” Sanders said, “get out of politics.”

The crowd also booed at times when Sanders turned his attention to Clinton. He boasted his campaign, unlike Clinton’s, did not form a super PAC and instead has relied on more than 6 million individual campaign contributions averaging $27.

He said Clinton also received $225,000 from “Wall Street” for private speeches.

“I kind of think if you’re going to get $225,000 for a speech,” Sanders said, “it must be a brilliant speech.”

But Sanders spent much of his time discussing a string of campaign promises. Calling the nation’s economy rigged for the wealthiest, he said millions of people are working longer hours for lower wages. He estimated 58 percent of all new income goes to the top 1 percent, and he said he will change that if elected.

Sanders also called the country’s criminal justice system broken, estimating there are 2.2 million people in jail costing taxpayers $80 billion per year. He said that money would be better spent investing in job training and education.

He acknowledged his education plan, which includes free tuition at public universities, would cost a lot of money. But he argued the expense is worth it.

“It’ll be a hell of a lot cheaper, in terms of dollars and human life,” Sanders said, “than locking them up.”

Other campaign talking points today included: “demilitarizing” local police departments; defeating ISIS but avoiding a “perpetual war” in the Middle East; focusing on clean water; treating heroin and opiate addiction as a health, rather than a criminal, problem; and his opposition to trade policies. He drew a contrast with Clinton by saying she “supported virtually every one of these trade agreements,” while he voted against them.

And he said he wants to remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances, prompting someone in the audience to yell, “Thank you, Bernie.”

When Sanders turned his attention to Trump, the Dem said the Republican “will not become president of the United States.” As evidence for the claim, Sanders cited “almost every national poll” showing him beating Trump.

But he said even Republicans should be grimacing at a presidential race that has led to Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz insulting each other’s wives.

“The American people are just flabbergasted at the nature of the Republican campaign,” he said.

At the end, though, Sanders took another swing at Walker.

“Let’s send a very strong message to Gov. Walker,” he said. “Let’s show Gov. Walker that his voter suppression efforts will not work.”

-- By Chris Thompson

 1:26 PM 

Cruz makes pitch to female voters at 'Women for Cruz' rollout

Coming on the heels of Gov. Walker’s Monday endorsement, Ted Cruz rolled out his “Women for Cruz” coalition at a Madison event Wednesday.

In front of a crowd of about 300 at Madison’s Sheraton Hotel, the Texas senator focused on the central themes of his campaign -- jobs, freedom and security -- as issues that are just as important to women as men. 

“Protecting the bill of rights, protecting life, protecting marriage, protecting our fundamental liberties -- all of that is at stake in this election,” Cruz said. “Those are women’s issues, those are men’s issues, those are adults’ issues, those are children’s issues, those are the issues for America.”

Cruz often surrendered the spotlight to former rival Carly Fiorina, wife Heidi and mother Eleanor, who spent much of their time warmly reminiscing on Cruz’s past track record of dedication to women. 

Cruz’s wife Heidi, on whom businessman and Republican rival Donald Trump has threatened to “spill the beans,” praised her husband for his support throughout their marriage. 

“[Cruz] is a husband who has suggested that I go for every single promotion that I’ve ever gotten,” Heidi Cruz said. “I’ve never met a man who is more thoughtful … of all women in his life. As voters, he will be equally thoughtful of you and your family.” 

Despite one indirect reference to the New York businessman, Donald Trump was not mentioned.

In outlining the tenets of his constitutional conservatism, the Texas presidential candidate and Fiorina managed to criticize the Democratic Party and specifically Hillary Clinton, claiming they pigeonhole women’s issues. 

“I find it insulting when the Democratic Party talks about women’s issues,” Fiorina said. 

While the rally’s focus was on women voters in the state, Cruz, his wife and Fiorina wove in traditional conservative values -- family, faith, Second Amendment protections and deregulation -- throughout their hour-long discussion. 

“At the end of the day it ain’t complicated,” Cruz said. “What we’re fighting for is this extraordinary experiment that is America. We are fighting for … what enabled these four extraordinary women to lead and accomplish their hopes and dreams, that [the] same opportunity is there for the next generation.”

-- By Riley Vetterkind

 12:28 PM 

Marquette poll: Cruz surges to GOP lead, Sanders moves ahead of Clinton

The latest Marquette University Law School Poll found Ted Cruz surging to the lead of the GOP presidential pack in Wisconsin and Bernie Sanders moving ahead of Dem rival Hillary Clinton.

The poll also found Justice Rebecca Bradley up on challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg and a dramatically narrowed U.S. Senate race between incumbent Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, and Dem Russ Feingold.

Forty percent of likely GOP primary voters said they backed Cruz, while 30 percent favored Donald Trump and 21 percent supported John Kasich. Trump led the previous poll at 30 percent, while March Rubio, who has since dropped out of the race, was at 20 percent and 19 percent backed Cruz.

On the Dem side, Sanders was backed by 49 percent of likely primary voters, while 45 percent supported Clinton. Last month, it was 44-43 Sanders, who has gradually gained in the poll since trailing by a dozen points in September. 

The survey came out of the field Monday, just as the flurry of presidential visits kicked up in Wisconsin and one day before Gov. Scott Walker endorsed Cruz.

In the state Supreme Court race, 41 percent of likely voters supported Bradley, while 36 percent supported Kloppenburg. Last month it was 37-36 for Bradley.

And in the Senate contest, 47 percent of registered voters backed Feingold, while 42 percent supported Johnson. In last month’s survey of registered voters, Feingold led 49-37.

The survey of 1,405 registered voters was conducted Thursday through Monday with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points. That sample also included: 956 likely voters for the April election with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points for that subset; 471 likely GOP primary voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 5.8 percentage points; and 405 likely Dem primary voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 6.3 percentage points.

The sample was 48 percent Dem, 44 percent Republican and 7 percent independent. The long-term average of the poll has been 47 percent Dem and 42 percent Republican.

Some results were posted online early and started to spread via Twitter. Franklin said it was a “slip on our part.”

See more in today's PM Update.

-- By JR Ross

 9:26 AM 

Cruz, Trump, Sanders making several stops today

Three of the five presidential campaigns plan events today around the state.

Cruz has a "Women for Cruz" coalition rollout at the Sheraton Hotel in Madison this morning. The event will include Heidi Cruz, Eleanor Cruz and Carly Fiorina.

Heidi Cruz and Fiorina then have stops planned in Milwaukee, Sheboygan and Fond du Lac.

Trump has stops planned for De Pere and Appleton.

And Sanders will be stumping in Kenosha, Madison and La Crosse.

Hillary Clinton and John Kasich did not have any planned public events. Kasich planned to campaign today in New York.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

 10:11 PM 

Sanders challenges supporters to turn out April 5 to prove Walker's efforts to suppress vote failed

MILWAUKEE -- U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders challenged supporters Tuesday to show Scott Walker the guv's plans to suppress the vote with measures such as voter ID have failed by turning out in droves for Wisconsin’s presidential primary April 5.

Sanders drew wild applause as he slammed Walker on several issues, particularly voter ID, though he said the guv is not alone in his efforts across the country to make it harder to vote.

"I say to Gov. Walker and the other cowardly Republican governors, if you are afraid of a free and fair election, get out of politics, get another job,” Sanders shouted to cheers and applause.

Sanders promised to be “exactly the opposite of Scott Walker,” particularly on unions. Sanders said Walker wants to “destroy” the movement, while he promised to expand it, adding he believes in unions’ right to negotiate good contracts.

Sanders also said while Walker has given tax breaks to corporations and cut education, he would expand education and require “corporate America start paying their share of taxes.” 

“Gov. Walker has received significant funds from the Koch brothers. And I want to see Citizens United overturned,” he continued. “Gov. Walker has slashed funds for Planned Parenthood; I’m going to expand it.

“I’m sure there are areas we agree on, I just haven’t seen them yet,” Sanders said to laughter.

Sanders, who predicted he would win Wisconsin next week if there is significant turnout, also sought to highlights his differences with Dem rival Hillary Clinton.

Sanders decried the loss of manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin in recent decades, mentioning General Motors, Johnson Controls and Briggs and Stratton as example of companies that moved jobs to Mexico and other countries.

Sanders said Clinton supported virtually every one of what he called “disastrous trade agreements” that encouraged these corporate actions.

The Vermont senator waited until the end of his hourlong speech to mention Donald Trump, calling him out for his treatment of women, Mexicans and Muslims and likening Trump to “demagogues who always function by trying to divide us up and to scapegoat minorities.”

Sanders refrained from name-calling the Republican front-runner; instead he made a word play on Trump’s name.

“Coming together always trumps divisiveness," Sanders said. "Togetherness and supporting each other in our times of need always trumps selfishness. At the end of the day, love always trumps hatred."

-- By Kay Nolan

 6:47 PM 

Trump jabs Walker in Janesville speech

JANESVILLE -- Donald Trump kicked off his first stop in Wisconsin a week away from the April 5 primary by taking shots at Gov. Scott Walker -- only hours after the former presidential candidate endorsed Ted Cruz.

Trump, speaking to a crowd of about 1,000 at the Holiday Inn Express in Janesville, jabbed at Walker for posing on his Harley-Davidson. Trump said Walker “doesn’t look like a motorcycle guy.”

Walker, whose name got booed by the audience, got some credit from Trump for taking on the Act 10 battle, though he said he’d rather have someone “make a deal without having to go through all that mess.” And Trump slammed him on the state’s economy, ticking off a list of numbers Trump said shows Walker “is not doing a great job.” 

“[Wisconsin] is an incredible place, but it’s a place that has problems,” Trump said, “and you have a governor that has you convinced it doesn’t have problems.”

Trump drew more people than he expected today, leaving about 1,000 people waiting outside, police said. But Trump promised to come back to U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s hometown, saying he felt “so guilty about all the people outside.” 

Ryan, though, didn’t get much love from the audience. When Trump mentioned Ryan, much of the crowd started booing him, and someone yelled “Paul RINO," referring to the “Republican In Name Only” acronym.

Leslie Spears, a registered nurse from Illinois, said that’s because Ryan has made too many compromises with President Barack Obama. Spears said she admired Walker when he took on the unions in 2011, but said he’s now indebted to the GOP donors who backed him in his election bids.

“He doesn’t strike me now as any different than anyone else in the GOP,” she said. “Now he owes them because he got all that.” 

Some Walker fans, though, said Trump should’ve left those attacks out. Kevin Pope, a chef at the Buckhorn Supper Club in Milton, said Trump “didn’t really need to go there.” And Pope said he was surprised that much of the room booed Ryan and Walker. 

The event was not without protesters, a few of whom got escorted out when they entered the hotel. But most of the protesters stayed outside, holding signs saying “Dump Trump” and “No Hate In Our State.” 

Abril Lara, a 23-year-old Blackhawk Technical College student, said she didn’t show up at the protest to "change any minds [but] to stand up for what I believe in." Lara, who carried a sign saying she's not a rapist or a criminal, called Trump's rhetoric about Mexicans like her "very sad."

"If that's what makes this country great, then this country has nothing," she said. 

Six protesters were arrested on various charges, and police said they’re looking for two suspects. One of them pepper sprayed a 15-year-old girl who was protesting, and the other groped her, police said. 

Trump also criticized former GOP nominee Mitt Romney, who picked Ryan as his running mate. Trump said Romney “should just go away and let the big boys do it now.” And he slammed his two GOP opponents, Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The two, he said, can’t be tough against the pharmaceutical industry, the banking industry and others because they’ve taken millions of dollars from them. 

Cruz, he told the crowd, is getting more and more of the establishment support “including your governor.” But Cruz has alienated his Senate colleagues and can’t list a single accomplishment there, Trump said. 

“He’s sort of got the worst of all elements,” Trump said. “He’s an insider, totally, but he can get nothing done.” 

He also addressed allegations that his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, grabbed a female reporter at a rally. Lewandowski was charged by the Jupiter Police Department in Florida today with a misdemeanor battery charge. 

Trump called him a “wonderful guy” and let his supporters weigh in with their accounts of what the tape of the incident shows. The tape, he said, showed she didn’t flinch and wasn’t grabbed. 

“Maybe he touched her a little bit, but it was almost like he was trying to keep her off me, right?” Trump said. After pausing a bit to listen to a supporter, he said, “Like he was helping her, right?”

Lewandowski, he said, has a “beautiful wife and children, and I’m not gonna destroy a man for that.” 

Asked about education, Trump said he’ll be “terminating Common Core.” Wisconsin’s education standards, he said, shouldn’t be aligned with whatever D.C. bureaucrats with “big, fat salaries” think. 

He also slammed Obama for giving too much of his foreign policy strategy away, saying he wants to “knock the hell out of ISIS [but] don’t wanna tell the world what I’m gonna do.” 

And he said he backs free trade as long as it’s “good trade for us.” 

“The Hispanics, I love the Hispanics, but their leaders are killing us on the border, and they’re killing us on trade,” said Trump, who later appeared at a CNN town hall in Milwaukee that also featured Cruz and Kasich. “I’m not angry at them. I’m angry at our country and our leadership because it’s grossly incompetent, and we’re gonna change it around.”

See the video of the speech

-- By Polo Rocha

Editor's note: This post has been updated with additional details from the rally.

 5:09 PM 

Kind sixth Wisconsin superdelegate to back Clinton

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind became the sixth Wisconsin superdelegate to publicly back Hillary Clinton, saying at a WisPolitics.com luncheon today no one running for the White House is more qualified, experienced or ready to assume the responsibilities of the job.

In considering the field of presidential candidates, Kind said the Oval Office is no place for "on-the-job-training."

"And I like her agenda when it comes to expanding and strengthening the middle class," the La Crosse Dem said. "And I also like her experience when it comes to enhancing our security from threats both abroad and at home."

The other five Wisconsin superdelegates to back the former secretary of state, according to Clinton's campaign, are: U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, of Madison; U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, of Milwaukee; and DNC members Christine Bremer Muggli, Michael Childers and Martha Love.

The other four superdelegates -- U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, state Chair Martha Laning, state Vice Chair David Bowen and DNC member Jason Rae -- have not publicly endorsed in the race.

See more on today's luncheon in the WisPolitics.com PM Update

-- By Chris Thompson

 3:31 PM 

Kasich 'not losing any sleep' over Walker backing Cruz

WAUKESHA -- Ohio Gov. John Kasich said today he’s “not losing any sleep” over Gov. Scott Walker backing Ted Cruz for president and questioned the importance of endorsements in general.

“It’s no surprise here,” Kasich told reporters following a town hall meeting in Waukesha. “I wish he’d have been for me, but I’m not losing any sleep over it.”

Kasich said endorsements only matter if the one making the endorsement works hard for a candidate.

“Endorsements, you like to have them, but do they really determine anything?” Kasich said. “Only if someone really puts their shoulder to the wheel and pushes like crazy to make a difference.”

Kasich declined to criticize Donald Trump over his response to Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, being charged with battery for allegedly grabbing a female reporter at a campaign event.

But Kasich said that when it comes to his employees, “when we see things that are improprieties, we either suspend or let people go.”

“It’s up to him.” Kasich said. “Everybody is innocent until proven guilty, however, when we see things that are very disturbing we then take action. And that’s what I think needs to be done. But it’s Trump’s call.”

Later, Kasich said based on the reports, Lewandowski’s alleged actions were “totally and completely inappropriate.”

“That could have been one of my daughters, for that matter,” Kasich said.

Kasich repeated his prediction that the nomination would be contested at convention, which he described as an “extension of the campaign.”

He noted that out of 10 contested GOP convention, only three went for the frontrunner. He stressed polls showing him being the only GOP candidate beating Hillary Clinton in general-election match up.

He said if there is not a nominee that can unite the country, GOP seats in the Senate and House could be in play. He said he is now in a “strange position” in which he is in some ways the “stalwart of the Republican Party to make sure we don’t lose the Senate and major losses in the House.”

Kasich’s delivered a brief pitch and took questions for about an hour from a crowd of about 200 gathered at Weldall Manufacturing Inc., which specializes in large-scale welding and fabrication.

Kasich criticized the approach of both Trump and Cruz on dealing with ISIS, saying that the world needs to come together, share intelligence information, and fight ISIS “in the air and on the ground.”

Kasich also told the crowd he would take a “common-sense” approach to regulation, reduce taxes and support job training to help companies like Weldall succeed.

Audience questions focused on jobs, the federal budget, illegal immigration and other topics.

Kasich stressed the importance matching the skills people learn to the jobs that are available, and detailed programs in Ohio designed to do so.

To balance the budget, Kasich said his approach would not just be to make cuts. 

“I don’t live in the world of cutting, I live in the world of reform,” he said.

For example, he said he would increase spending for defense and for medical research. At the same time he said he would eliminate the Department of Commerce and transfer useful programs within it elsewhere. He said he would shift to the states responsibility for welfare, job training, infrastructure, Medicaid and education.

On immigration, Kasich said he would seek a way to give legal status, but not citizenship, to those in the country illegally who have not committed crimes or are not otherwise facing deportation. He also said he would boost border security and build a wall to keep more from entering the country illegally. 

The program began about 45 minutes late, and Kasich apologized to the crowd, telling them media interviews ran over time.

Kasich was introduced by former Gov. Tommy Thompson, who credited Kasich with balancing the budget in 1996 while he was in Congress and stressed Kasich’s electability in the general election.

“I think if you vote for Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, you’re voting for individuals who are going to lose to Hillary Clinton,” Thompson said.

After asking several time if Kasich had arrived, Thompson joked he was announcing his own run for president.

“Well, I want to announce for president,” Thompson quipped. “Everything I said double it, because I can do the same thing.”

While waiting for Kasich, Thompson held an impromptu Q&A, where he was asked if he’d accept a post again as head of Health and Human Services. 

“I’ve done that once before,” Thompson said. “Right now I’m going to do everything I can to elect John Kasich.”

-- By David Wise

 1:06 PM 

Trump backers, protesters largely tame ahead of today's Janesville rally

JANESVILLE -- The road up to the Holiday Inn here is mixed with "Dump Trump" signs and "Make America Great Again" hats. 

Donald Trump, who'll speak here this afternoon, has drawn a largely tame crowd of both protesters and supporters who are separated by barriers. 

About 5,000 people have RSVP'd for the event, though the conference room he'll speak in only holds 1,000, police say.

Abril Lara, a 23-year-old Blackhawk Technical College student, said she's not here to "change any minds [but] to stand up for what I believe in." Lara, who carried a sign saying she's not a rapist or a criminal, called Trump's rhetoric about Mexicans like her "very sad."

"If that's what makes this country great, then this country has nothing," she said.

But Trump supporters such as Zach Schober say the U.S. needs a leader who "says what he means and means what he says."

Schober, a junior at UW-Whitewater studying business and marketing, said Trump knows how to "fix the economy single-handedly" and isn't backed by special interest groups.

"I think he'll bring back jobs, and he's not bought," he said.

Debbie Grundgeiger, a retired small business owner who lives in Black Earth, said political correctness is "screwing up the whole world." 

Heidi Verbeten, a retired social worker from Madison, said amid the "Dump Trump" chants she was always bothered by Trump's rhetoric. But the "last straw," she said, was his retweeting of an unflattering photo of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz's wife.

"I believe he's a narcissist," she said. "I don't think he has the temperament or the personality to be president."

Grundgeiger, though, said Trump's female employees haven't come out and said he mistreats them. And, she added, he was always respectful to women on his reality TV show.

"You're not going to find any of them complaining either," she said. 

-- By Polo Rocha

 12:13 PM 

Clinton tells Milwaukee event it's important to rebuild trust with police, though 'bad apples' needed to be weeded off force

MILWAUKEE -- Hillary Clinton told about 200 people packed into a Baptist Church in the city's Metcalfe Park neighborhood that ‎"It's important to rebuild bonds of trust" between police and citizens.

"We've got to do a better job, both in working with our police and yes, retraining, and frankly, weeding out the bad apples," Clinton told the mostly African-American audience as she sat flanked by mothers who lost children to violence.

At the same time, Clinton stressed that, "Police need our support" and said most officers are trying to do the right thing, but are faced with difficult situations.

Clinton said if elected, she will look for ways to divert people from a life of crime and also promote more second-chance programs for people getting out of jail.

Clinton got in a dig at Bernie Sanders without naming him by saying her opponent voted for the "Charleston loophole" that allows someone to obtain a gun after three days, even if the background check is not completed.

Annette Nance-Holt, mother of 16-year-old Blair Holt‎, an honor student who died when gunfire erupted on a bus in Chicago, thanked Clinton "for reaching out to us” and added that “that other candidate has not reached out to us.”

"I'm not going to give (my vote) to you just because you say you'll do free college. If my child is dead, he ain't going to college,"‎ Nance-Holt said to applause.

Joining Clinton at the front of the church were: U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee; Pastor Don Darius Butler; Nance-Holt; and Geneva Reed-Veal, mother of Sandra Bland, who died in a Texas jail after being arrested following a traffic stop.

Butler noted that the church is in the heart of what has been called Milwaukee’s most dangerous neighborhood. He noted that recent homicides have occurred along the street and in an alley near the church.

"It is something that is all too real for many of us and we are happy that the matter has now risen to a level of national prominence in this campaign season," Butler said.

Clinton said the church is in "a ZIP code that has seen too many lost lives. She drew cheers and shouts of "That’s right" and "Amen" when she said, "Every child deserves to have a healthy, happy life, regardless of the ZIP code where he or she is."

-- By Kay Nolan

 11:22 AM 

Fresh off Walker's endorsement, Cruz heaps praise on guv

BROOKFIELD -- Ted Cruz, fresh off Scott Walker’s endorsement, called the guv a strong, principled conservative whose recall election victory inspired him and millions across the country.

Cruz continued that he would bring the courage and principle that is "demonstrated every day by Scott Walker, by the men and women of Wisconsin" to Washington, D.C., to take on the special interests that he said were "bankrupting our kids and grandkids."

"And when Scott stood up to the union bosses, when Scott saw death threats and attacks and protests and anger, millions of men and women across the state of Wisconsin stood with Governor Scott Walker," Cruz said.

"It showed that when we the people stand up together, we can beat the special interests that are bankrupting our kids and grandkids."

Before he took the stage, Cruz's campaign played a live feed of Walker's interview with conservative talk show host Charlie Sykes in which the guv announced his endorsement of the Texas senator. Walker said it was an "easy" decision to support Cruz, eliciting wild cheers from Cruz supporters gathered at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts.

As he has in other stops, Cruz stressed the importance of Wisconsin in the GOP presidential primary. Following the April 5 election, the race moves to northeastern states that are expected to be an uphill climb for the senator.

"The entire country is focused on the state of Wisconsin. This state has a national platform, a national megaphone, and right now in the state of Wisconsin it’s neck and neck," telling the crowd that he is effectively tied with Trump in the state.

Cruz’s speech focused on the rally’s stated theme of "Jobs, Freedom, and Security," in which he continued to strike a populist tone on issues such as stagnant wages and student loan debt while reaffirming his commitment to impose a flat tax, abolish the IRS and reign in the EPA. 

On the foreign policy front, Cruz renewed attacks on Donald Trump for his statement that he would be a neutral arbiter between the Israelis and Palestinians. He again challenged Trump to a two hour, one-on-one debate instead of tonight’s scheduled CNN presidential town hall in Milwaukee. 

Referring to Trump’s ongoing feud with Fox News host Megyn Kelly, Cruz commented that "if you find Anderson Cooper to be as scary as Megan Kelly, then I’ve got a simple suggestion: how about we sit and take questions from the audience, do a town hall for the men and women of Wisconsin."

-- By Patrick Fitzgerald

 9:16 AM 

Walker: 'I'm all in' for Cruz

Gov. Scott Walker endorsed Ted Cruz this morning, saying he is a constitutional conservative, is not afraid to take on "big-government special interests" even when they're aligned with Republicans, and is best positioned to win the GOP nomination and then beat Hillary Clinton in the fall. 

Walker said on Charlie Sykes' talk show he wanted someone who was a principled, common-sense conservative who can win.

"It was an easy call for me to support Ted Cruz," Walker said.

Walker said he would campaign with Cruz through next week's primary.

"I'm all in," Walker said. "This is not a default."

Walker suggested last week a contested GOP election would likely result in party delegates selecting a nominee who was not currently in the field. Today, he predicted Cruz will win Wisconsin next week, putting him on the path to win the delegates needed to take the nomination outright.

Cruz, who had a rally this morning in Brookfield, aired the announcement live for the crowd before he took the stage.

During an appearance on Sykes' show yesterday, Trump defended his past comments that were critical of Wisconsin's economy, saying he pulled his facts from Time magazine.

Walker declined to take on Trump directly, saying he preferred to focus on what he liked about Cruz. Still, he ticked off a series of measures to back up his argument Wisconsin is doing well and said those voting in the GOP primary next week are aware of those facts.

"They know what the facts are," Walker said. "They know we’ve done well here in Wisconsin."

-- By JR Ross

 8:31 AM 

All five candidates in Wisconsin today

A week out from the presidential primary, all five candidates stump Wisconsin today as Donald Trump makes his first state stop in Janesville.

The other visits include:

*Hillary Clinton in Milwaukee, Green Bay and La Crosse;

*Ted Cruz with Carly Fiorina in Brookfield and Cedarburg;

*John Kasich in Waukesha and Milwaukee;

*and Bernie Sanders in Appleton and Milwaukee.

The three GOP candidates also are expected at a GOP town hall event in Milwaukee hosted by CNN.

Check this blog for coverage throughout the day.

Monday, March 28, 2016

 8:10 PM 

Kasich jabs GOP opponents, emphasizes his experience

Ohio Gov. John Kasich tonight insisted his experience with both domestic and foreign policy separates him from the other GOP contenders for the White House.

Kasich made that point several times to an audience of about 500 people at the Madison Sheraton Hotel. And he pounded it home when discussing the reactions of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump to the recent bombings in Brussels.

Without naming names, Kasich said one opponent wants to increase police patrols in Muslim neighborhoods, while another wants to ban Muslims from entering the country.

"This is just the voice of inexperience," Kasich said. "Amateur hour is what it is."

The experienced response, he said, is to talk to the people in those communities and learn from them.

Still, Kasich never said he expects to win enough delegates to take the GOP nomination outright. But he made it clear he likes his chances at a contested convention in Cleveland. The delegates who would be casting votes, he said, will ask two questions: Who can win in fall? And who can run the country?

Kasich said he can do both.

"As they measure favorability," he said, "I'm the only one who's above water here."

And at that point, someone in the crowd interrupted him, prompting Kasich to respond, "What are you yelling back there? This is not a Trump rally."

The town hall started with former Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Klug and former Gov. Tommy Thompson. Both emphasized Kasich's experience, underscoring his work balancing the budget in 1996 while in Congress.

And Thompson ripped into Kasich's potential Dem candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, calling the former a "74-year-old socialist" and the latter a candidate lacking the trust of "65 percent of people."

And when Kasich took the floor, he pointed to a ticker at the side of the room showing the ever-increasing national debt. He said he fixed it once and will do so again.

"As those numbers go up," he said, "your chances of getting a job go down."

The solution, he said, doesn't stem from name-calling -- which drew a loud "Amen" from someone in the crowd. The answer is drawing the party together and not letting politics stand in the way of working across the aisle.

"It's time," Kasich said, "for grown-up leadership."

-- By Chris Thompson

 6:56 PM 

Bradley outraised Kloppenburg by $100,000

Justice Rebecca Bradley raised almost $480,000 in pre-election period, topping rival JoAnne Kloppenburg by $100,000 over the seven weeks.

Bradley’s cover sheet shows she spent $438,701 between Feb. 2 and March 21. She had $148,996 cash on hand at the end of the period and listed $102,500 in outstanding loans. That debt is leftover from her 2013 campaign to retain her then-seat on the Milwaukee County bench.

The report showed $439,278 in contributions from individuals and $40,515 from other committees.

Kloppenburg’s haul included $341,097 from individuals and $38,900 from committees.

Campaign finance reports for candidates in the spring election are due to the GAB today.

-- By JR Ross

 6:40 PM 

Clinton hits Republicans on Supreme Court vacancy during UW-Madison stop

Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton encouraged voters Monday to consider the implications for the Supreme Court when they head to the polls and called for an end to “obstructionist” politics during a campaign stop on the UW-Madison campus.

Some Senate Republicans have said the next president should fill the vacancy and are refusing to consider President Obama’s recent Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland.

Clinton called for an end to their “obstructionist” politics, saying Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, should grant Garland a hearing. 

“Today, I’m adding my voice to the chorus asking Senator Grassley to step up and do his job,” Clinton said.

The crowd applauded as Clinton criticized U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, for supporting the block on Obama’s pick. She encouraged constituents to contact Johnson and voice their opinions.

“Tell him to stop playing games with the Supreme Court,” Clinton said.

Johnson has said he wants the next president to select the replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia, warning a liberal appointment would flip control of the court and put Second Amendment rights at stake. 

"Ron is doing his job by protecting the Second Amendment rights of Wisconsinites and working to find other areas of bipartisan agreement -- maybe these career politicians should follow the example of someone with real-world experience," said campaign manager Betsy Ankney. 

Clinton said the court used to protect the “little guy” but its more recent ideology has led our country in the wrong direction and given more power to the wealthy. She called the current court vacancy a “make-or-break moment.”

The next president could have the opportunity to appoint multiple justices given the age of some court members, Clinton said.

“In a single term, the Court could demolish pillars of the progressive movement,” Clinton said.

Clinton said if elected president she would look for nominees with different life experiences and who would see the Constitution as “a blueprint for progress, not a barrier against it.” 

The former secretary of state spoke to a roomful of more than 250 invited guests at Gordon Commons Dining Hall and Event Center in the heart of the UW-Madison campus eight days before Wisconsin’s presidential primaries. 

Audience members included members of the UW-Madison College Democrats, former Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle and former Madison Ald. Scott Resnick.

The local crowd laughed as Clinton joked that some had asked her why she was campaigning in Madison when Dem presidential rival Bernie Sanders was polling well there. 

She briefly mentioned flaws in Sanders’ college affordability plan when during a question and answer session after her speech but her most common target throughout the event was the Republican Party, which she called “extreme” and “obstructionist.”

-- By Madeline Sweitzer

 4:14 PM 

Kloppenburg raised $380,000 in pre-election period

Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg raised almost $380,000 in the seven-week pre-election period, according to her cover sheet.

Kloppenburg’s cover sheet shows she also spent $451,388 between Feb. 2 and March 21 and had $197,383 cash on hand to close the period. She listed $157,000 in outstanding loans.

Kloppenburg’s haul included $341,097 from individuals and $38,900 from committees.

Campaign finance reports for candidates in the spring election are due to the GAB today.

Full reports for Kloppenburg and Justice Rebecca Bradley had not yet been filed with the GAB as of this afternoon. Bradley’s cover sheet was not immediately available from her campaign.

-- By JR Ross

 1:46 PM 

Greater Wisconsin Political Fund hits Bradley for 'extreme views' in new TV ad

The liberal Greater Wisconsin Political Fund is up with a new TV ad that asks how Rebecca Bradley can be fair considering her “extreme views.”

The spot uses comments Bradley made in her college writings in the early 1990s as well as a 2006 column.

The narrator in the spot opens the ad by saying, “Our judges should be fair and impartial.”

But the narrator says Bradley called gays immoral, abnormal, queers and degenerates and “even said she had no sympathy for AIDS victims.” The narrator then says Bradley argued pharmacists should be able to deny filling women’s prescriptions for birth control.

“Why? Because Bradley actually said birth control is equivalent to murder,” the narrator says to close the spot. “Ask Rebecca Bradley, with these extreme views, how can she be fair?”

-- By JR Ross

 11:51 AM 

Spokesman: Kasich 'allocating and reallocating' media buys in Wisconsin

Ohio Gov. John Kasich is moving around his media buys in Wisconsin just more than a week out from the state's April 5 presidential primary, his campaign said.

Conservative talk show host Charlie Sykes tweeted today Kasich was pulling his radio buys in Wisconsin.

Asked for comment, Kasich spokesman Chris Schrimpf wrote in an email, "As a new poll out today shows, Wisconsin is a competitive state and in certain Congressional Districts, Gov. Kasich is best positioned to finish ahead of Donald Trump. Like any good campaign, we are regularly allocating and reallocating media in a dynamic atmosphere. We are increasing our buys in some Congressional Districts in Wisconsin and reallocating in some others."

-- By JR Ross

 9:29 AM 

Kloppenburg TV ad slams Bradley as 'too extreme' for court, quotes justice 'in her own words'

JoAnne Kloppenburg’s campaign is out with a new TV ad slamming Rebecca Bradley as too extreme for the Supreme Court and quotes the justice “in her own words.”

The ad quotes Bradley's writings from her days as a college student at Marquette University in the early 1990s as well as a 2006 column she wrote.

The narrator opens the spot by calling her “Scott Walker’s appointee” and says she “called gay people -- quote -- ‘degenerates.’” The narrator goes on to say Bradley wrote AIDS patients deserve “none of my sympathy,” said it was legitimate to suggest women play a role in date rape and in 2006 equated contraception with murder.

“Scott Walker appointed Rebecca Bradley three times to three judgeships in three years,” the narrator says to close the spot. “She may be right for Scott Walker, but she’s too extreme for our Supreme Court.”

-- By JR Ross

 9:22 AM 

Candidates making several Wisconsin stops this week

The state will again see a flurry of candidate visits with the presidential primaries now eight days away.

Ted Cruz will be in Altoona and Rothschild today, while John Kasich will do town hall events in West Salem and Madison.

Hillary Clinton has stops today at UW-Madison and the Milwaukee Boys & Girls Club. She'll also be in Milwaukee, Green Bay and La Crosse tomorrow.

Bernie Sanders, who campaigned in Madison on Saturday, has stops in Appleton and Milwaukee tomorrow and Kenosha and LaCrosse Wednesday.

And Donald Trump will make his first stop in the state tomorrow in Janesville.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

 7:58 PM 

Sanders tells Madison rally, 'We're coming big-time to Wisconsin'

Bernie Sanders celebrated his Saturday wins in the Alaska and Washington caucuses at a rally in Madison, proclaiming to the thousands assembled, "We’re coming big-time to Wisconsin.”

The Vermont senator touted his progressive platform and how far his campaign has come, noting he first started polling in single digits. The latest Marquette University Law School poll, released a month ago, had him about even with Dem rival Hillary Clinton. In September, he trailed her by a dozen points.

“We believe that we will win,” the crowd chanted after Sanders received word he had won the Washington caucus.

“I believe this is a campaign of energy and momentum,” Sanders said.

The self-identified democratic socialist briefly mentioned Clinton when addressing criticisms about his electability. He said he would win not only the nomination but the general election as well, citing a CNN poll showing he would beat current Republican front-runner Donald Trump by a larger margin than the former secretary of state.

Sanders supporters flooded the Alliant Energy Center's exhibition hall for his campaign’s “Future to Believe In” rally 10 days before the Wisconsin primaries. 

Sanders touched on most of his platform in the hour speech but went more in-depth on economic issues such as income inequality, raising the federal minimum wage to $15, as well as free college tuition and mass incarceration. 

Sanders said it would cost less to send someone to the University of Wisconsin than to prison so “let’s do that.”

Sanders challenged the Republican Party’s policies and its candidates’ behavior, but directed most of his jabs at the “billionaire class.” He said America is currently functioning as an oligarchy for the wealthy few, not a democracy.

“This campaign is doing as well as it is because we are listening to the people, not wealthy donors,” he said. 

Sanders specifically called out the Koch brothers and alluded to their previous support of Gov. Scott Walker’s failed presidential bid. The moment garnered laughter from a crowd that otherwise booed any mention of Walker or the Republican Party.

Sanders said the average donation to his campaign is $27. He has refused to form a super PAC, a stance he took early in the campaign.

-- By Madeline Sweitzer

Friday, March 25, 2016

 12:32 PM 

Clinton to campaign in Wisconsin Monday and Tuesday

Hillary Clinton will campaign in Wisconsin Monday and Tuesday, her first stops in the state in the weeks leading up to the April 5 primary.

Clinton's campaign said she will be in Madison, Milwaukee, LaCrosse and Green Bay. Details of the events will be released later.

-- By Staff

 12:30 PM 

Kasich adds another Wisconsin stop next week, Vos endorses Cruz

John Kasich's campaign has added another Wisconsin stop next week, this one a town hall meeting in Waukesha on Tuesday.

The event will be at Weldall Manufacturing Inc. He has two stops in Wisconsin on Monday and plans to be at a Milwaukee County GOP event April 1. Ted Cruz has also confirmed for the party event.

Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, who originally backed Marco Rubio, announced today he is now endorsing Cruz.

-- By Staff

 9:33 AM 

Washington Free Beacon poll has Cruz up on Trump in Wisconsin

A new poll conducted for the conservative Washington Free Beacon has Ted Cruz up on Donald Trump in Wisconsin.

The poll, conducted by Basswood Research, found 36.2 percent of likely GOP primary voters surveyed backed Cruz, while 31.4 percent supported Trump and 20.8 favored John Kasich.

In a one-on-one race, Cruz would lead Trump 47.8 percent to 36.2 percent.

The survey of 500 likely GOP primary voters was conducted March 19-20 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points. The poll was conducted via live interviews and included cell phones.

Also this week, Emerson College released a poll that found Cruz and Trump about even.

That poll fond Cruz backed by 36 percent of likely GOP primary voters, while 35 percent supported Trump and 19 percent favored Kasich.

On the Dem side, Hillary Clinton led Bernie Sanders 50 percent to 44 percent.

That automated phone poll was conducted March 20-22. It included 439 likely GOP primary voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percentage points, while the Dem primary included 354 likely primary voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 5.2 percentage points. According to the release, the Dem primary results were weighted by gender and age, while the GOP primary was not.

-- By JR Ross

Editor's Note: This post has been updated to add details on how the Free Beacon poll was conducted.

 8:39 AM 

Walker: Contested GOP convention would likely nominate someone not running

Gov. Scott Walker today predicted a contested convention in summer will lead to GOP delegates picking a nominee who is not in the current field. 

Walker made the prediction while speaking to reporters at UW Health's west clinic in Madison. He was there to sign into law AB 402, which calls for using federal money to establish a dietetic internship program under the supplemental food program for women, infants and children. 

But the guv also added a caveat to his prediction. 

"I think if it's an open convention, it's very likely it would be someone who's not currently running," he said before adding, "I think any of us who commented on this election have qualified that almost every prediction has been off." 

Walker said while he has heard regularly from the campaigns for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the guv hasn't "heard a peep out of the Trump campaign." 

"In fact, I don't know, other than the candidate and his immediate staff, what kind of infrastructure, if anything, they have here," Walker said, "which is similar to what I hear from others around the country." 

The guv also repeated he doesn't plan to decide until next week whether he will endorse or which candidate would get his backing. Until that point, Walker said, he doesn't plan to appear at any presidential campaign events. 

"If I make an appearance," Walker said, "it would probably be sometime next week after I decide if I'm going to make an endorsement and with whom." 

In discussing the candidates, Walker offered his opinion of Cruz's recent call to increase police patrols of Muslim neighborhoods in light of the attack this week in Belgium. The guv said he prefers the "if you see something, say something" approach he has previously discussed. 

"Not limited to certain neighborhoods or certain backgrounds," Walker said. 

 8:34 AM 

Clinton launches 3 ads in Wisconsin

Hillary Clinton’s campaign has three ads in its Wisconsin TV buy, including one that references Dontre Hamilton, an African-America Milwaukee man who was shot to death by a police officer.

That spot is narrated by Morgan Freeman, who opens the spot by saying "She says their names." Clinton is then heard saying the names of five African Americans who died due to gun violence or in police custody. The ad also mentions the water problems in Flint, Mich.

In a second spot, Clinton is at a campaign stop and reads a note from someone in the audience who takes brand-name drugs and says in the early 1980s, it cost $180 for 10 vials. Now it’s $14,700.

“I’m going after them,” Clinton declares. “This is predatory pricing, and we’re going to make sure it’s stopped.”

The third is a 60-second ad in which Clinton knocks Wall Street, big financial interests, drug companies, insurance companies and big oil.

“The indifference, the negligence, that’s what I want to take on,” she says.

See the ads:

 3:23 PM 

CFG announces $1 million buy in Wisconsin to oppose Trump, boost Cruz

The national Club for Growth said it’s going up in Wisconsin with a more than $1 million digital and TV buy boosting Ted Cruz as part of the group’s effort to oppose Donald Trump.

A narrator opens the ad telling viewers if they don’t want Trump to win, “your choice comes down to this: math.”

The narrator goes on to say only Cruz can beat Trump, and John Kasich can’t because “the math won’t work.” The spot shows a chalkboard with the delegate counts for Trump at 739, Cruz at 465 and Kasich at 143. The narrator adds a vote for Kasich helps Trump by dividing the opposition. 

The bar for Kasich’s delegates is then stacked on top of Cruz’s. That makes Cruz’s total appear taller on the chalkboard than Trump’s even though the businessman currently has more delegates than his two remaining challengers combined.

“It’s time to put our differences aside,” the narrator says to close the spot. “To stop Trump, vote for Cruz.”

-- By JR Ross

 12:35 PM 

Cruz, Trump speaking in Janesville, Sanders heads to Madison Saturday

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, will be in Janesville late this afternoon for a rally at the Armory.

The rally there will start at 5 p.m., according to an invite from the Cruz campaign. Donald Trump will speak at the Janesville Conference Center on Tuesday afternoon, his campaign says.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, will speak Saturday at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, his campaign announced today. The Vermont Dem gathered around 10,000 people when he spoke there last summer. Doors open at 1 p.m.

UPDATE: John Kasich has now added events in West Salem and Madison on Monday.

Cruz has also added a town hall for tomorrow morning at Lakeside Plastics, Inc. in Oshkosh, according to an event invite.

 11:14 AM 

Kasich presidential campaign announces digital, TV ads in Wisconsin

John Kasich’s presidential campaign today announced a new digital and TV buy in Wisconsin with two spots.

One says Kasich “lived a hardscrabble life in a rusty steel town” and never gives up. The narrator says Kasich lost his parents to a drunk driver, was told he couldn’t balance the federal budget and that he couldn’t “save Ohio from an $8 billion shortfall. 

“They say our best days are behind us,” the narrator says. “America, never give up. John Kasich.”

In the other, Kasich talks about his faith, saying his parents, killed by a drunk driver, “did not die in vain” and he was transformed. 

“I discovered my purpose by discovering the Lord,” Kasich says.

-- By JR Ross

 8:54 AM 

Walker: Open GOP convention not a 'bad thing'

Gov. Scott Walker said Wednesday Ted Cruz is the only GOP presidential contender who could mathematically wrestle away the nomination from Donald Trump.

And while Walker said he is more closely aligned with Cruz and John Kasich, he said on Charlie Sykes' talk show if he decides to endorse in the GOP presidential race, he'll do it shortly after Easter for "maximum impact" ahead of Wisconsin's April 5 primary.

Walker said he's spoken to the candidates other than Trump. He said he also believes Trump would have a hard time winning the GOP nomination at the July convention in Cleveland if he goes in short of the delegates needed to claim it outright.

"I don't think an open convention is a bad thing," Walker said.

The guv added the caveat that most of his predictions have been off because of the unconventional nature of the race.

Walker said he expects to be one of Wisconsin's delegates to the national convention.

"It's a lot more interesting than any of the conventions I've been at before," he said.

 7:50 AM 

Conservative Wisconsin Alliance for Reform starts third TV ad hitting Kloppenburg

The conservative Wisconsin Alliance for Reform is going up with a new TV ad hitting Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg for upholding a lower court ruling that excluded evidence in a fatal hit-and-run.

The narrator opens the spot by saying a man had been convicted of drunken driving three times and took the narcotic methadone.

“Twenty minutes later, he got behind the wheel and struck and killed a 61-year-old woman,” the narrator says.

The spot goes on to say Kloppenburg sided with a judge who excluded the methadone use as evidence, the homicide charges were dropped “and the man went free.”

“Tell Judge Kloppenburg we need to protect law-abiding citizens, not criminals,” the narrator says to close the spot.

See the spot in AdWatch.

-- By JR Ross

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

 11:02 PM 

Cruz says entire country looking to Wisconsin

PEWAUKEE -- Making his first public appearance in the state ahead of the April 5 presidential primary, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said the “entire country is looking to Wisconsin” and he is neck-and-neck with Donald Trump here.

"Wisconsin has a megaphone and a platform for the country," told Charlie Sykes as part of the conservative talk show host’s Insight 2016 event.

Cruz mentioned Trump repeatedly and got in several digs at the businessman. 

"I think the American people are not interested in politicians bickering like children. For example, I have zero interest whatsoever in any parts of Donald Trump's anatomy," Cruz said, prompting laughter from the audience.

-- By Kay Nolan

 2:47 PM 

Kasich tells Wauwatosa crowd he won't drop out before Wisconsin primary

Ohio Gov. John Kasich told reporters today there's "zero chance" he will drop out of the presidential race before Wisconsin's primary election April 5.

"We've always been the little engine that can," said Kasich, standing next to former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, who gave Kasich a resounding endorsement. "We're going to keep moving."

Another former GOP Wisconsin governor, Scott McCallum, was also on hand to support Kasich. But when asked if he would seek Gov. Scott Walker's endorsement, Kasich said, "I have a message in to him, but I have no clue what he's going to do. I would love to have his support, but I can't tell you what his thinking is. Look, this is a guy who was in the arena; it's tough when you're in the arena and you leave the arena to try to figure out what you're going to do."

Kasich spoke to reporters this morning following a town hall event with about 500 people at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Wauwatosa.

See more in the PM Update today.

-- By Kay Nolan

 11:05 AM 

Sanders campaign going up on TV in Wisconsin

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign announced today he is going up on TV in Wisconsin.

The campaign included five ads in the announcement. They include spots in which Sanders promises to "make Wall Street banks and the ultra rich pay their fair share of taxes, provide living wages for working people, ensure equal pay for women. The middle class will continue to disappear unless we level the playing field.”

The other spots focus on the economy, Social Security, climate change and his differences with Hillary Clinton on Wall Street regulation.

See all five spots here.

-- By JR Ross

 8:29 AM 

Kloppenburg, Bradley clash over Bradley leaving oral arguments early

Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley and her challenger, Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg, traded jabs Tuesday over the incumbent leaving oral arguments early.

The question arose during the Dane County Bar Association's candidate forum in Madison ahead of the April 5 election. Bradley and Kloppenburg covered the familiar territory of Bradley's college writings on gay people and AIDS as well as allegations Kloppenburg is soft on crime.

But when the questions turned to Bradley's recently leaving oral arguments to deliver a speech to Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the two candidates couldn't even agree on how much of the arguments she missed. Bradley said 10 minutes and Kloppenburg estimated 15 to 20.

Either way, Kloppenburg said, she has never seen it happen in 23 years.

"It is a dereliction of duty, and it is an affront to attorneys who have spent so much time preparing for oral argument," she said, "and to the parties who are left feeling, 'Did they get a fair shake?'"

Bradley has insisted she missed nothing. She said she had read the briefs and had all of her questions answered by the time she left. She said she then watched the rest on WisconsinEye.

Furthermore, Bradley said, in her five months on the bench since Gov. Scott Walker appointed her, she has seen justices arrive late and leave early for oral arguments.

"We all try to avoid having to miss any part of oral arguments or any other aspect of our responsibilities as Supreme Court justices," she said. "But the fact remains that my fellow colleagues occasionally miss portions of oral argument as well."

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley left oral arguments early last year to give a speech during her re-election campaign.

Still, Kloppenburg said, it's not simply a matter of having questions answered and then leaving. The back and forth between justices and attorneys during oral arguments is designed to lead to additional questions and different ways of framing a case, she said.

"It sure seems to someone in the legal community that someone who leaves the bench for a nonemergency reason during oral argument already made up her mind," Kloppenburg said.

But Bradley shot back that the real decision-making takes place after oral arguments, when the justices meet around a conference table and share their opinions on the case.

"With all due respect to Judge Kloppenburg, she just doesn't know what she's talking about when it comes to the oral arguments, the process by which the Supreme Court decides cases," she said. "She doesn't have the experience of sitting on the Wisconsin Supreme Court."

Bradley today also placed a value of a "million dollars-plus" on what the liberal One Wisconsin Now has given to Kloppenburg's campaign.

The justice used the amount when discussing Kloppenburg's criticism of those who support Bradley's campaign. Bradley said she could say the same about those who support Kloppenburg, adding OWN Executive Director Scot Ross uses "hateful" and "disgusting" language on social media and is demeaning to women with whom he disagrees.

"One Wisconsin Now has provided, I would put at, million dollars-plus in the value of what they provided to my opponent's campaign," Bradley said.

Kloppenburg disagreed and called the allegation inappropriate.

"One Wisconsin Now has absolutely no connection to my campaign," she said, "and my opponent can identify none."

Ross, whose group brought to light Bradley's college writings on gay people and those with AIDS, fired back at the justice today.

"Rebecca Bradley is clearly unhappy the media across Wisconsin are covering the hateful and hurtful things that she wrote," he said.

The candidates also touched on the possibility of an amendment to the state constitution that would require justices serve one 16-year term on the Supreme Court.

Bradley said that's a decision for lawmakers and the people of the state, though she joked about what some might expect her response to be.

"I think as people have seen how this campaign has gone for me," she said, "I might be somebody who's in favor of making changes to methods of judicial selection."

Kloppenburg said she understands the idea that such an amendment could help the state have "more fair judicial elections."

"But even that proposal doesn't account for the injection of millions of dollars by unregulated special interests that don't have to disclose their donors," she said.

Listen to the forum:

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

 8:43 AM 

Steineke endorses Cruz as other former Rubio backers ponder next move

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke Monday endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz as the Texas senator's presidential campaign officially opened offices in Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, former state Treasurer Jack Voight endorsed John Kasich, while GOP lawmakers who had supported Marco Rubio said they were weighing their options as the presidential campaign continued to pick up steam here.

State Sen. Duey Stroebel, Cruz's state chair, said the senator's wife, Heidi, will be in Wisconsin for events Wednesday and Thursday. Ted Cruz is expected to make a stop here before the week is out, and the campaign has opened four offices in the state, Stroebel said.

"They really believe Wisconsin is a place where they're going to prevail," Stroebel said.

Steineke, who previously endorsed Rubio, said he believes Cruz is the only GOP candidate who can not only stop Donald Trump from winning the Republican nomination, but win in November as well.

"Marco Rubio is my first choice," said Steineke, R-Kaukauna. "But when I look at the candidates left in the field, I think it's clear that Sen. Cruz is the only constitutional conservative that is left that has a message that's consistent with the vast majority of my priorities."

Rubio, R-Fla., last fall rolled out a list of state GOP lawmakers who endorsed his campaign. Some, such as JFC Co-chair John Nygren, R-Marinette, said they have decided against backing someone else in the race.

"My guy lost don't see how my second choice endorsement would help any candidate," Nygren wrote in a text.

Other GOP state lawmakers who previously backed Rubio said they're either not going to endorse or still trying to decide.

Sen. Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, said he probably won't endorse before the April 5 Wisconsin primary. Rep. Adam Jarchow, R-Balsam Lake, said he won't make another endorsement at all.

Others, though, said they are on the fence. Rep. Scott Krug, R-Nekoosa, said he plans to endorse but hasn't decided on a candidate.

Two Republican lawmakers who endorsed Rubio - Reps. John Macco, of Ledgeview, and Mike Rohrkaste, of Neenah -- said they're still thinking it over but know who won't get their backing.

"I haven't decided who," Rohrkaste said, "but I can tell you it's not Trump."

Monday, March 21, 2016

 4:12 PM 

Lazich won't seek re-election

Senate President Mary Lazich announced today she will not seek re-election in fall.

The New Berlin Republican was elected to the Assembly in 1992, to the Senate in 1998 and re-elected since then. She served as Senate president this term.

Lazich did not say in her announcement why she chose not to seek another term.

But she said she believes the Republican-led Legislature and Gov. Scott Walker have made the state much more "fiscally secure."

"Wisconsin residents and business are much better situated to pursue life with less government intrusion and with freedom to live, educate, and work with greater independence," Lazich said.

-- By Chris Thompson

 12:57 PM 

Cruz campaign preparing for Wisconsin push

A “Cruz Crew Strike Force” will be in Wisconsin between March 25 and April 5, according to the campaign website for presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz.

The campaign, according to the site, is looking for volunteers to help with Cruz’s push in Wisconsin.

See more on Cruz’s campaign here.

-- By Chris Thompson

Friday, March 18, 2016

 8:57 PM 

Bradley, Kloppenburg spar in Madison debate

Justice Rebecca Bradley Friday slammed challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg as inconsistent on third-party ads and recusal rules for judges, saying the appeals court judge has failed to live up to the standards she now professes.

Kloppenburg, meanwhile, challenged a series of decisions Bradley has made as a college student, private attorney and now on the bench that she said shows the incumbent comes from a partisan background and is not an independent voice on the court.

Bradley took several shots at Kloppenburg in their debate over where she stands now compared to 2011, when the then-assistant attorney general challenged Justice David Prosser. A third-party group ran a TV ad in that campaign that accused Prosser of mishandling a child sex abuse case when he was a district attorney. The victim in the spot called for it to be removed, but Kloppenburg did not disavow it.

Now, Kloppenburg has denounced a third-party TV ad that she says cherry picks and distorts a case involving a sex offender that she heard on the 4th District Court of Appeals.

Likewise, Bradley said, Kloppenburg has been critical of recusal standards the court approved before Bradley became a member that allow justices to sit on cases involving parties who have contributed to their campaigns. Bradley pointed out Kloppenburg heard an appeals court case involving a group that spent heavily against her in that 2011 race.

“You can’t have it both ways,” Bradley said.

Kloppenburg countered voters should consider the choices each of them have made and how they made it to the bench. Kloppenburg said she has made a career of standing up for the people of Wisconsin and has issued hundreds of decisions during her 3.5 years on the court of appeals.

By comparison, she said Bradley had a thin resume as a judge, was appointed three times to the bench in three years by Gov. Scott Walker, has belonged to partisan groups such as the National Republican Lawyers Association, has accepted help from the state GOP in her current campaign and left oral arguments early to address Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.

Kloppenburg said the challenge for voters is to decide which one will be more independent on the court.

“They can tell that by how we got where we are and the choices we made,” she said.

Those choices include Bradley’s decision to represent a man with whom she had a romantic relationship in a child custody case. Bradley has ripped the newspaper story detailing the case as garbage and irrelevant to the race. She also has challenged Kloppenburg to disavow the story, saying her refusal to do so raises questions about her judgment.

Kloppenburg said lawyers she’s spoken with have raised concerns about representing someone with whom an attorney is romantically involved in a family law case. That’s particularly true, she said, because Bradley could have been called as a witness.

She argued the case raises questions about Bradley’s judgment and that’s something voters should consider.

“I have no interest in talking about her personal life,” Kloppenburg said. “I agree with her. That’s not relevant.”

Bradley continued to slam the story, calling it salacious and a low blow that crossed the line. She added Kloppenburg’s refusal to disavow it raises concerns about her challenger’s judgement.

“It was sexist and it should offend not only every other person in the state of Wisconsin, but particularly women in the state of Wisconsin because we are treated differently when we run for office,” Bradley said.

The hourlong debate, which was moderated by Wisconsin Public TV's Frederica Freyberg and Wisconsin Public Radio's Shawn Johnson, featured the two continuing to trade jabs over Bradley’s college writings. They included Bradley referring to some with AIDS as "degenerates," included the line "Homosexual sex kills" and used the word "queer" derisively.

Kloppenburg said she has “no interest in going into my opponent’s soul,” but she said Bradley’s career choices raise questions whether there is evidence she has truly changed the beliefs she held in 1992, when the pieces ran. She also pointed to a 2006 column Bradley wrote equating contraception with murder, and the role Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke plays in the justice’s campaign. Clarke, a vocal opponent of gay marriage, is featured in a new radio ad Bradley began running this week.

“He’s not just an endorser. He’s an integral part of her campaign,” Kloppenburg said, adding Bradley’s positions raise questions if everyone will get a “fair shake” before her.

Bradley again apologized for the anti-gay writings. She also dismissed the focus on her past writings, saying the college pieces were written when she was 21 and the 2006 column was before she became a judge. Voters, she argued, should only focus on judicial philosophy in deciding who to support in the race.

She also dismissed Kloppenburg’s questions about Clarke’s support, saying she has a diverse group of supporters and couldn’t possibly believe everything they believe.

Bradley also said it was concerning that Kloppenburg doesn't believe people can change compared to where they were in their youth. That’s particularly true for a judge, she said.

“We must believe in the power of redemption,” Bradley said.

-- By JR Ross

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