Week In Politics: Wisconsin Primary, 'Religious Freedom' Bills NPR's Ari Shapiro talks with our regular political commentators E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post and Brookings Institution and David Brooks of The New York Times.

Week In Politics: Wisconsin Primary, 'Religious Freedom' Bills

Week In Politics: Wisconsin Primary, 'Religious Freedom' Bills

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NPR's Ari Shapiro talks with our regular political commentators E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post and Brookings Institution and David Brooks of The New York Times. They discuss the Wisconsin primary and the flurry of "religious freedom" bill


This week's big political story seems to be the revenge of the underdogs. Wisconsin gave a solid win to Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders. That prompted David Brooks to write in The New York Times today that the Republican presidential campaign has changed from a candidate-centric process to a delegate-centric process. David is with us along with our other Friday regular, E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post. Hi, guys.


E.J. DIONNE: Good to be with you.

SHAPIRO: So David, you're basically presuming a contested convention. What does that mean for this campaign over the next four months until Republicans meet in Cleveland in July?

BROOKS: I'm certainly presuming it. I'm praying for it.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

BROOKS: And so the idea is that the delegates now control all the power. And it begins to look like a parliamentary system more than a presidential system. And if you pay attention to Israeli or any parliamentary politics, really small parties that can swing a majority have disproportionate power.

So I'm looking to all the delegates who are anti-Cruz and anti-Trump, more mainstream, I would say, more moderate Republicans to band together and exercise that power, either to drag one of the two candidates - and it's probably going to be Cruz - toward the center or to serve as the kernel of a third candidate, as yet unknown, if this whole thing implodes. If the extremes are well organized, which they really are - the Tea Party types - maybe the moderates and the mainstream Republicans should get organized, which they have not done at all so far.

SHAPIRO: You know, E.J., the mainstream Republican Party has been trying to control this process from the beginning and, more or less, failing. Do you think they'll have any better chance of dictating the outcome at the convention?

DIONNE: I think the short answer is no. I mean, the - David talks about a Lincoln Caucus, and Lord knows I would love a Republican Party truer to Lincoln's spirit, but this side lost all of these primaries. The bulk of the delegates to this convention - the one thing we can say with certainty is they'll be committed either to Trump or to Cruz, and good luck dragging those guys toward - closer to the position David outlines.

But I think the key - well, before we even get to this, I think the question is, is Donald Trump stopped to the point where we have a brokered convention? And I really believe Trump fell apart before Wisconsin, and Wisconsin ratified it. What I'm looking forward to is a great fight in California akin to the Goldwater/Rockefeller fight back in '64 or Humphrey/McGovern in '72. If Trump loses California, he loses the argument, I think - or weakens the argument that he is the popular choice. And then, maybe even David's little caucus could have an influence.

SHAPIRO: All right, I want you to both stay with us.

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