With the Wisconsin primary just a week away, the remaining presidential candidates are descending on the Badger State. National frontrunner Donald Trump, who hasn’t made a campaign appearance in several days, ventured Monday morning into unfriendly territory: Wisconsin talk radio, where hosts have been viciously criticizing Trump for months.
On Monday morning, influential radio host Charlie Sykes grilled Trump for nearly 10 minutes in an often uncomfortable interview, at one point scolding him for sounding more like a “12-year-old bully on the playground” than a candidate for president.
The heated interview began and ended with Trump’s feud with rival Ted Cruz over the appearance of their wives — an episode that began with an independent PAC attempting to shame Trump’s wife for nude modeling and worsened when Trump retweeted a photoshopped picture a supporter created to shame Heidi Cruz. Sykes pressed Trump to apologize and publicly say that wives and families should be off limits for campaign attacks, but he refused to do so, repeatedly shouting, “He started it!”
Sykes, adopting the tone of a patient preschool teacher, said to Trump: “Mr. Trump, we’re not on a playground. We’re running for president.”
Trump shot back: “My views are not playground views,” but held that he would not apologize until Cruz did first.
Many Wisconsin conservatives reacted strongly to the interview in real time, posting on social media that Trump had exposed himself as incapable of answering tough questions.
— Dan O'Donnell (@DanODradio) March 28, 2016
What a disaster interview for Trump with @SykesCharlie. Grilled over sexism, criticism of Scott Walker, donations to Dems.
— Elliott Schwartz (@elliosch) March 28, 2016
Jerry Bader, another conservative talk radio host in Wisconsin, was at a loss for words on his own show Monday morning after the Trump interview aired. “Wow, I, um, have to tell you, I enjoyed the interview, but it was frustrating as hell,” he said.
Trump is currently trailing Cruz in the polls Wisconsin, and proponents of the #NeverTrump movement are hoping the state’s voters will finally be the ones to block his seemingly unstoppable march to the Republican nomination. Citing the state’s Midwest values of civility and decency, which Trump’s crude language and behavior may offend, as well as his past support for progressive policies like universal healthcare, Trump’s Wisconsin critics are crossing their fingers for his downfall next Tuesday.
“If the Trump Train derails,” predicted Sykes, “it may start right here.”