(WTOL) - The race to the White House starts a new leg of the journey this week, as presidential candidates are now focused on the road to the New York primary.
Tuesday's primary in Wisconsin produced surprising outcomes as Senators Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders swept the state and front runners Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton went home with losses.
No matter the result, experts say Wisconsin is key in how the remainder of the primaries could play out.
"Cruz did a little better; he shut Trump out or almost shut him out in terms of delegates. Bernie Sanders did better than expected, he outperformed the polls. The big prize really is New York, with a lot of delegates on both parties," said University of Toledo Political Science Chair Sam Nelson
Although the Empire State does have some crucial differences in its primary political process, most notably for Democrats.
"New York is a closed primary. Independents can't vote. If you're not already a registered Democrat, you can't vote. In Wisconsin, Bernie Sanders led Independents 3 to 1, that's' where his margin came from, he tied among Democrats. Well, in New York, he's only got Democrats to work with. That's going to be a bit of a hurdle for him to cross in trying to compete with Clinton there," said Nelson.
While polls show that Cruz is not terribly popular in New York, back in toss-up state Wisconsin, he did well with a certain group there.
"Cruz ended up doing much better with highly-educated voters than he had been doing in other primaries, according to exit polls. That's kind of Kasich's home ground in this primary across the last month or so: the more educated Republicans. Cruz picked up a lot of those. Kasich came in third, which was expected, but a little bit further behind than maybe anticipated. Trump now needs 58 percent of the remaining delegates in order to win an absolute majority on the first ballot. On the other hand, on the Republican side, you have a lot of winner take all or winner take most primaries. If Trump gets more than 50 percent of the vote in New York, and he's polling at 51 percent, he'll get all of the delegates, and that's like 95 delegates. That'll wash out anything that happened in Wisconsin and put him in pretty good shape going into the May and June primaries," said Nelson.
Mathematically-speaking, that makes it difficult to determine whether the Wisconsin winners could realistically fare well in the dozen upcoming primaries.
"There are still quite a few delegates because Northeastern primaries have lots of delegates. New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, those are big states. Those are all going to be decided in April. But the biggest state, California, isn't until June 7th. That's why neither race is going to be settled until California votes, even if we have a pretty good idea of who's going to win. California is actually going to have a big role to play all the way in June," said Nelson.
Only six weeks remain between California's primary and the conventions.
"I think for Republicans, that's going to be a challenge, because they're not going to be in a real organized state, given the way things are breaking down. Trump probably won't have nailed down an absolute majority at that point, Cruz won't have either, so they're still going to be fighting between the primaries and convention, trying to game out how the convention is going to work. For the Democrats, I don't think it's going to be like that. I think Clinton will probably end up needing California to get a majority. But right now, if you project forward, it looks like she'll have that majority well ahead of the convention and you won't see the convention fights on the Democratic side," said Nelson.
Either way, Nelson also notes that Wisconsin raised some questions that will likely be answered over the next few weeks.
"Trump had a couple of bad weeks, bad press stories, he fumbled the abortion questions, he fumbled a couple of other questions, he looks a little beat up right now. So one of the questions will be: Cruz did well in Wisconsin, he picked up Rubio's voters. It looks like there is something fundamentally different for the remainder of the Republican race," said Nelson.
He says that even if Trump has maxed out at this point, Cruz likely won't do well in the Northeast primaries. He thinks Kasich is going to do better in states like Pennsylvania than he did in Wisconsin.