MILWAUKEE (AP) — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, in his first joint appearance with former presidential rival Ted Cruz, implored hundreds of Republican Party activists and insiders on Friday to back the Texas senator, saying a win for him next week will change momentum in the race and unite the party.
Cruz, who called Walker a "rock star," hugged the two-term governor as he took the stage at an event just four days before Wisconsin's primary. Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, speaking on behalf of Donald Trump, also attended the Milwaukee County GOP dinner.
Cruz won Walker's endorsement Monday, giving him a boost as he looks to win Wisconsin and its 42 delegates. Walker planned to campaign with Cruz across the state Sunday.
Cruz noted that Walker is one of five former Republican presidential candidates who are now backing his campaign. The others are Rick Perry, Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush and Lindsey Graham.
"That is the very real manifestation of the unity we need across this country," he said. "If we are divided, we will lose the primary and hand the general election to Hillary Clinton."
Cruz said nominating Trump would be a "train wreck."
"That's actually not fair to train wrecks," Cruz said. "Nominating Donald Trump elects Hillary Clinton."
In his speech at the same event, Kasich cast himself as an independent-minded Republican, saying he understands the frustration felt by Trump backers.
"The Republican Party has been my vehicle and not my master," Kasich said. "I've never wanted to be a professional politician — in fact, I don't even like politics."
Kasich, whose only primary victory has come in his home state of Ohio, is hoping to survive the primary season and win the nomination at the GOP convention in Cleveland in July.
"We are going to have a contested convention," said former four-term Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson when he introduced Kasich, noting that Abraham Lincoln won the nomination 156 years ago going into the convention as the underdog.
Palin called for Republicans to unify behind Trump's candidacy. She said he is the only candidate who understands that "common sense is an endangered species in Washington." She also touted Trump as the only candidate who has created private-sector jobs, saying, "He builds big things."
There were some chuckles in the crowd when Palin said Trump is the only one who "talks rationally" about foreign policy and national security.
It's been a rough week for Trump in Wisconsin. He's had to defend his campaign manager after he was charged with an altercation with a female reporter, backtracked from comments that women should be punished for having abortions, stumbled through three interviews with unfriendly conservative Wisconsin talk radio hosts and watched Cruz leapfrog him in public polling.
The anti-Trump forces have been working to stop the billionaire businessman in Wisconsin, a state that will help determine whether he can emerge from the primaries with enough delegates to avoid a contested convention. Wisconsin awards 18 delegates to the statewide winner, and divides 24 delegates among the winner in each eight congressional districts.
If Cruz sweeps all the delegates in Wisconsin, Trump will need to win 57 percent of the remaining delegates in other states to collect the 1,237 he needs to clinch the nomination. So far, he has won 48 percent of all delegates awarded.
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