Ted Cruz holds a modest lead over Donald Trump in Wisconsin two weeks before that state’s winner-take-all Republican primary, according to a new Washington Free Beacon poll.
The Basswood Research survey of 500 likely Republican primary voters, conducted on March 19 and 20, shows the Texas senator leading Trump by 4.8 points, 36.2 to 31.4. Ohio Gov. John Kasich trails with 20.8.
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Cruz’s lead expands dramatically in a head-to-head contest with Trump. If Kasich were to drop out before the primary, 47.8 percent of respondents say they would back Cruz, compared to just 36.2 percent for Trump.
Wisconsin is expected to be a crucial contest in the race for the Republican nomination, as Trump looks to expand his lead, Cruz clings to diminishing prospects to unseat him as the frontrunner, and Kasich seeks to consolidate enough support to keep his bid relevant ahead of a potential contested Republican convention.
The contest will be an open primary, meaning members of any political party can participate. Seventy-two percent of Free Beacon poll respondents were registered Republicans.
The Free Beacon survey shows Cruz with the largest lead he’s had in the state. An Emerson poll released on Wednesday showed him leading Trump by one point. Every other survey since Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker withdrew from the race showed Trump or neurosurgeon Ben Carson in the lead, according to RealClearPolitics.
According to the Free Beacon poll, which had a margin of error of 4.4 percent, likely primary voters have a far less favorable view of Trump than his two rivals. Trump’s net favorable rating is +9.8, compared to +35.4 for Cruz and +41.2 for Kasich.
Survey respondents also expressed concerns with Trump’s policy positions and campaign style.
Nearly 60 percent of respondents agreed that Trump "does not have the right temperament to be president." Forty-two percent strongly agreed. More than 61 percent said he "holds numerous liberal positions."
On immigration, Trump’s signature issue, respondents expressed more moderate sentiments than those generally espoused by Trump.
Nearly seven in 10 respondents said they supported "a pathway" to citizenship for illegal immigrants if they pass criminal background checks, pay fines, learn English, and "wait a period of years."
Even a majority of Trump supporters say they support that pathway.
On the issue of international trade, another Trump staple, opinions were more evenly split. Forty-four percent said they were in favor of free trade, while 43.2 percent said they oppose it.