MILWAUKEE — "Truck drivers and mechanics and plumbers and steelworkers, union workers," Ted Cruz told his supporters at his victory rally "Men and women with calluses on their hands will once again see wages rising, opportunity expanding."
Cruz, while successfully reaching out to the moderate, establishment Republican voters who formerly backed Marco Rubio, John Kasich, and Jeb Bush, is also fighting to make inroads into Donald Trump's base: working class whites.
Trump's strength with working-class whites was what made Wisconsin promising for him. But Cruz trampled him with that demographic.
In Oostburg, Wisconsin, Tuesday morning I met the guy Cruz described. Dan is a mechanic at the local dairy and wheat co-op on the edge of Oostburg. Dan's hands were coated with dirt and grease. It was the kind of dirt and grease that doesn't come off, even with washing.
Dan attended a technical college where he picked up an associates degree in automotive repair. Now he fixes everything that breaks down on the farm. I had lunch with him at Judi's Place in Oostburg. He told me he likes a lot of Trump policies, but he voted for Cruz.
Exit polls show Cruz winning whites with no college degree 45% to 41%. Cruz tied Trump among Wisconsinites earning $30,000 to $50,000. Cruz beat Trump by 13 points among those who rank the economy as their top issue, and Cruz won those who are "very worried" about the economy.
Trump, however, beat Cruz by 5 points among the majority of Wisconsin GOP voters who see trade as destroying jobs.
Timothy P. Carney, The Washington Examiner's senior political columnist, can be contacted at email@example.com. His column appears Tuesday and Thursday nights on washingtonexaminer.com.