BROOKFIELD, Wis. — Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz won the endorsement of Wisconsin governor — and former GOP rival — Scott Walker Tuesday as all five candidates converged on his state ahead of its key primary.
Walker said on Milwaukee conservative talk radio that he was backing Cruz over Donald Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich because he believes the Texas senator is best positioned to win the GOP nomination and defeat presumed Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
The endorsement comes as Trump planned his first Wisconsin campaign stop in House Speaker Paul Ryan’s hometown. After the Janesville, Wisconsin, rally Trump was scheduled to join Kasich and Cruz for a CNN town hall in Milwaukee. In the increasingly contentious Democratic race, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Clinton were campaigning around the state.
Wisconsin will hold its presidential primary on April 5.
Walker, a two-term Republican who became the first governor in U.S. history to win a recall election in 2012, had telegraphed his support for Cruz after saying last week he was the only candidate who had a chance to knock off Trump. When Walker ended his short-lived presidential campaign in September, he called for other candidates to join him to make it easier to take out Trump.
When Walker was running for president, he argued a governor should be the nominee. But he passed over Kasich to support Cruz, who until recently, had failed to garner the same level of support from the GOP establishment.
“It was an easy call for me to support Ted Cruz,” Walker said, highlighting Cruz’s fights with both Republicans and Democrats. “This is a guy who has been consistent in his positions and when push comes to shove will stand up for the people he represents over the interests in Washington.”
Cruz supporters erupted in cheers as Walker’s radio interview was played live at a rally outside of Milwaukee.
Trump made clear in a message he posted Monday night on Twitter that he wasn’t expecting to land Walker’s endorsement.
After the way I beat Gov. Scott Walker (and Jeb, Rand, Marco and all others) in the Presidential Primaries, no way he would ever endorse me!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 28, 2016
“After the way I beat Gov. Scott Walker (and Jeb, Rand, Marco and all others) in the Presidential Primaries, no way he would ever endorse me!” Trump wrote, referring specifically to former contenders Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.
It’s unclear how much Walker’s endorsement will help Cruz, who has also won the backing of influential conservative talk radio hosts in the Milwaukee market that reach into heavily Republican suburban counties. Walker’s approval rating hasn’t cracked 40 percent in more than a year.
Wisconsin has 42 delegates, with 18 going to the statewide winner and 24 divided up to the winner in each of the state’s eight congressional districts. Kasich has said he hopes to win in a couple congressional districts, as Cruz and Trump battle it out to win the state.
Kasich was campaigning for votes in suburban Milwaukee, as was Cruz who appeared with Carly Fiorina at a morning rally. On the Democratic side, Clinton was to appear at a gun violence forum in Milwaukee and then head north to Green Bay and west to La Crosse, which is on the Minnesota border. Sanders was stopping in the Milwaukee area and Appleton.