The warning signs of trouble coming for the Donald Trump campaign have proved to be correct. Last night's decisive loss in Wisconsin, with "Mister" Trump winning just 3 of 33 delegates, makes it increasingly unlikely that he can win the outright majority needed to claim the nomination in Cleveland.
And smilin' Ted Cruz is ready to pick up the pieces.
There's an irony in the fact that Trump the builder, Trump the manager and businessman, the man whom many of his followers worship for his alleged competence, may be blowing his shot at the big prize because he failed at the basic task of building and managing a professional political campaign. Trump the candidate ought to be looking in the mirror this morning and telling Trump the campaign manager that he's fired, but Trump the candidate is probably much too fond of Trump the campaign manager to make that choice.
Whatever his other failings, from the beginning Cruz has fielded a highly disciplined, competent campaign team following a carefully plotted strategy. He believed that over the long haul of a campaign, such an advantage would begin to tell, and it shows every sign of doing so. Cruz has also succeeded in positioning himself as his party's sole viable alternative to the nightmare that Trump poses to the GOP establishment, which itself is thick with irony.
On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders had himself another big night, his seventh victory in the last eight contests, but again he barely shifted the math that weighs so heavily against him. He entered the night trailing Hillary Clinton by 228 delegates, and after his 13-point victory he now trails by 219 delegates. To quote the late Jerry Reed, he has a long way to go and a short time to get there.
If Sanders doesn't have the numbers, however, he does have momentum and passion, and there are times in politics when they can overcome math. Clinton and her staff have to be looking at the campaign and their opponent in bewilderment, wondering why they haven't been able to put him away yet. The answer lies in the fact that Clinton is the establishment candidate in an anti-establishment year, and there's nothing in her persona or biography that allows her to challenge that perception.
Absent unforeseen disaster, she'll still win. But you do have to wonder whether Joe Biden -- he spent yesterday promoting a White House campaign against campus rape -- has some serious regrets.