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Cruz, Trump And The Uncertain Road To The GOP Convention

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Did Donald Trump hit a rock on the way to the Republican nomination for president this week or run into a wall? Senator Ted Cruz won the Republican primary in Wisconsin after a week in which Mr. Trump had been assailed for being inarticulate on abortion rights and changing his position repeatedly and insulting the wife of another candidate. Ted Cruz won 36 delegates; Donald Trump just six. But the next primary is in New York in April 19. Ninety-five delegates are at stake. Polls show Donald Trump more than 30 points ahead there. John Podhoretz joins us. He is the editor of Commentary Magazine and a columnist for the New York Post. Thanks so much for being with us.

JOHN PODHORETZ: A pleasure Scott.

SIMON: How do you read what happened this week in Wisconsin?

PODHORETZ: Well, the way I read the polls, Trump basically remained where he had been for weeks around 31-32 percent. So the real story in Wisconsin is Ted Cruz's rise, I think, about 20 points to end at 48 percent of the vote, which suggests that Cruz, at least in Wisconsin, finally found the key to consolidating much, you know, if not a total majority of Republican votes and anti-Trump votes on his behalf. But the real question is whether we're seeing a kind of national trend where Trump is beginning to exhaust himself with Republican voters who are outside his base.

SIMON: So your evaluation is less that Donald Trump has faltered so much as he stayed the same while Ted Cruz has been able to make himself what amounts to the spear carrier for an anti-Trump coalition.

PODHORETZ: Right. Well, think about this. Trump's won - again, I can't remember - the 21 contests. In seven of them, he got over 40 percent of the vote. Cruz has won nine contests, most of them caucuses. In every one of those states, he has gotten more than 40 percent of the vote. So where he breaks through, he breaks through pretty well.

The problem is that the map where we are over the next three or four weeks is not the best territory for him. That's here in York where I'm speaking, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, places where you wouldn't think that somebody whose, you know, most significant appeal is to evangelical and very conservative voters.

SIMON: How seriously do you take talk about a contested convention?

PODHORETZ: Oh, completely. I mean, I think right now absent Trump reversing field there will be an open convention.

SIMON: Let me pose this question. Can a political party ask millions of people to vote in primaries and then nominate for president someone other than the person who won the most votes?

PODHORETZ: Well, we're going to find that out maybe. I mean, I think the logic...

SIMON: I was hoping you wouldn't just say time will tell, but yeah.

PODHORETZ: No, no, but the - look, the logic of these rules are that if there is not a majority consensus candidate by the time the party gets to its convention, then effectively the primary caucus system will have failed. It failed. It didn't produce a majority consensus candidate for the party and therefore it will be the role of the convention to determine who comes out of that convention with the best hope of winning the presidency or who will mitigate, who will do the least damage to the party going forward and to candidates in House and Senate races who are endangered by a fractured party and a depressed electorate.

SIMON: John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary and columnist for the New York Post, thanks so much for being with us.

PODHORETZ: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.