Wisconsin Republicans aren’t showing signs of moving toward presidential candidate Donald Trump, even after Marco Rubio dropped out of the race and neither of the two remaining candidates have a path to securing the nomination before the GOP convention this summer.
As the focus of the race starts to shift to Wisconsin and its April 5 primary, those Wisconsin Republican leaders who previously backed Rubio are assessing their next move. Rubio ended his campaign on after losing his home state of Florida.
Reflecting the divide nationally in the Republican Party, some Wisconsin Republicans are backing anyone but Trump, others will get behind the eventual nominee and some may be holding out hope for another candidate to emerge at the GOP convention in July.
“#NeverTrump Nothing else matters,” state Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke tweeted after the last round of primaries. “America loses tonight. No real winners.”
Steineke said in an interview that he would back either Ohio Gov. John Kasich or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, but he’s not going to endorse either at this point.
“My guy was Marco Rubio,” Steineke said. “He was the guy I believed in the most.”
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who also had backed Rubio, issued a statement saying he had no plans to endorse another Republican candidate “at this time.”
Both Gov. Scott Walker and Republican Sen. Ron Johnson are among the top Wisconsin Republicans who said they will back whoever is the nominee. Walker ended his presidential run in September by calling for others to drop out so it would be easier to take on Trump, but he’s refused to endorse anyone even as the Wisconsin primary looms.
“He has repeatedly said that he is praying for a nominee of integrity, intelligence, ideas, and courage who can lead our nation — not divide it,” said Brian Reisinger, a spokesman for Johnson, who hedged last month on whether he would support Trump but has gone back to saying he’ll support the GOP nominee, including Trump.
House Speaker Paul Ryan caused a stir when he didn’t close the door entirely to the possibility of accepting the nomination at a contested convention — a scenario later endorsed by former House Speaker John Boehner.
“The speaker is grateful for the support, but he is not interested,” the Janesville Republican’s spokeswoman, AshLee Strong, said. “He will not accept a nomination and believes our nominee should be someone who ran this year.”
Even though Trump leads — and gained more ground with at least four victories this week — the race will still be unsettled by the time Wisconsin votes. There are 42 delegates at stake in Wisconsin, with the statewide winner securing 18 and three available to the winner of each congressional district.
Based on an Associated Press delegate count, Trump is the only candidate with a path to clinching the Republican nomination before the national convention. Trump’s rivals can only hope to stop him, forcing a contested convention with an uncertain outcome.
Cruz has the backing of several of the most conservative Wisconsin state lawmakers, while Kasich has tapped Republicans who were at the height of their power in the 1990s to help him. Former Gov. Tommy Thompson, who served as governor from 1987 to 2001, is the Kasich campaign’s state co-chair. Two former congressmen who served in the 1990s, Scott Klug of Madison and Mark Neumann of Nashota, are also on board.