Donald Trump tried to put a difficult week behind him ahead of the Republican presidential contest today in Wisconsin.
The Republican front-runner is at risk of losing the Midwestern state to Texas senator Ted Cruz, an outcome that would dent the New York billionaire’s aura of inevitability and make it harder for him to win the 1,237 delegates needed for the party’s nomination for the November 8 election.
On the Democratic side, Vermont senator Bernie Sanders is trying to protect his lead over front-runner Hillary Clinton in opinion polls in Wisconsin and eke out another victory over the former secretary of state.
Trailing Mr Cruz in the polls in Wisconsin, Mr Trump spent the weekend campaigning and planned to draw in his wife, Melania, later last night.
He stayed on message, telling fans in West Allis, Wisconsin, on Sunday that Mr Cruz was a liar and a “dirty rotten cheater” who is weak on immigration and would cut social security benefits.
“Wisconsin is going to be such a big surprise on Tuesday. We are doing so well,” Mr Trump said.
The property tycoon has won 20 presidential nominating contests and leads in the delegate count that will determine the Republican Party’s nominee.
He trails Mr Cruz by 10 percentage points in some Wisconsin polls.
A loss would add to Mr Trump’s woes after his campaign was rocked last week by the fallout from his suggestion, which he later rolled back on, that women be punished for getting abortions if the procedure is banned.
Uncharacteristically, Mr Trump also acknowledged that he made a mistake retweeting an attack on Mr Cruz’s wife, according to the New York Times.
He also drew fire last week for saying he would not rule out using nuclear weapons in Europe and that Japan and South Korea might need their own nuclear arsenals to ease the US financial commitment to their security.
“Was this my best week? I guess not,” Mr Trump told Fox News.
But, he added, “I think I’m doing OK”.
Mr Cruz was eager to capitalise on Mr Trump’s missteps. More Republicans are recognising that “nominating Donald Trump would be a train wreck”, he said.
Mr Cruz faces difficulty in winning the delegates needed to secure the nomination, given that the next states to vote, including New York on April 19, are Trump-friendly territory.
Ms Clinton is already eyeing New York, holding campaign stops there even as other candidates made their final pitches in Wisconsin.
“I’m absolutely confident I will be the nominee,”she told ABC as she and Mr Sanders continued to spar over scheduling more debates.
Sanders adviser Tad Devine said the senator wanted another prime-time debate with Ms Clinton.
“If we can continue to win, if he has a good day [today] we’re going to make his case through New York all the way to California,” he said.
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