Cruz emboldened, but needs a near miracle

Cruz needs to win 83 per cent of the remaining delegates to overtake the front-runner

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during a caucus night rally as his wife Heidi listens Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. Cruz sealed a victory in the Republican Iowa caucuses, winning on the strength of his relentless campaigning and support from his party's diehard conservatives. (Chris Carlson/AP)

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Feb. 1, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. (Chris Carlson, AP)

WAUWATOSA, Wis. — Former Republican presidential contenders gave Ted Cruz a boost Wednesday, casting the Texas senator as the party’s last best chance to stop Donald Trump.

Ahead of Wisconsin’s April 5 primary, Gov. Scott Walker, who dropped out of the race last fall, declared that only Cruz can catch Trump as time runs short in the primary season. And former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush gave Cruz his endorsement — a step perhaps designed to hurt Trump more than help the Texas senator.

“For the sake of our party and country, we must move to overcome the divisiveness and vulgarity Donald Trump has brought into the political arena,” said Bush, who was knocked out of the 2016 contest last month. “To win, Republicans need to make this election about proposing solutions to the many challenges we face, and I believe that we should vote for Ted as he will do just that.”

Indeed, as Democrat Hillary Clinton addressed rising national security concerns, the Republican contest was hit again by personal insults — this time involving the candidates’ families. Cruz slammed Trump during an appearance in the front-runner’s hometown for making a vague threat on Twitter the night before to “spill the beans” on Cruz’s wife.

“Gutter politics,” Cruz said. Trump’s warning that he would disclose something about Heidi Cruz came in response to an ad by an outside political group that featured a provocative photo of Trump’s wife, Melania, when she was a model and before they were married. Trump misidentified the Cruz campaign as the source of the ad.

Heidi Cruz addressed the situation directly during an appearance outside Milwaukee. “The things that Donald Trump says are not based in reality,” she said.

The Republican infighting came the day after Cruz scored a win in Utah and Trump claimed Arizona. Despite modest signs of strength, the first-term Texas senator needs a near miracle to catch the billionaire businessman.

The day-after delegate math laid bare the challenge: Cruz needs to win 83 per cent of the remaining delegates to overtake the front-runner. And further complicating Cruz’s path, Ohio Gov. John Kasich vowed to stay in the race at least until the next primary.

Things were decidedly less contentious on the Democratic side.

Clinton won in Arizona on Tuesday, maintaining a lopsided advantage over Bernie Sanders in the Democratic race despite his wins in Utah and Idaho on the same night. The former secretary of state is now almost three-quarters of the way to the Democratic nomination.

As the world grapples with a new wave of overseas violence, Clinton engaged Trump on national security with a California speech painting him as a misfit as potential commander in chief and laying out what she’d do to keep America safe in perilous times.

“Slogans aren’t a strategy. Loose cannons tend to misfire. What America needs is strong, smart, steady leadership,” she said.

Trump’s win in Arizona gave him a little less than half the Republican delegates allocated so far. He needs to win 54 per cent of those remaining to claim his party’s nomination before the July convention.

Associated Press writers Jonathan Lemire in New York City, Greg Moore in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Todd Richmond in Madison, Wisconsin, and Ken Thomas in Washington contributed to this report. Peoples reported from Washington.