MADISON, WI —
A trio of Wisconsin Republicans looking to inject the party with their own youthful, aggressive brand of conservatism ushered in the "Cheesehead Revolution." Their aim was to position the GOP for success in the 2016 presidential election.
Then came Donald Trump.
With the anti-Trump movement in full swing even as Trump solidifies his front-runner status in the presidential race, the focus turns to the April 5 primary in the home state of those three heavyweights: House Speaker Paul Ryan, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Gov. Scott Walker.
They are trying to chart a course in the face of a revolt over Trump's rise and what it means for the future of the Republican Party - and for each of them individually.
"The great plans came off the tracks with the presence of Donald Trump, both in terms of where the party would be and presidential ambitions," said Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who ran against Walker twice and lost both times. "Donald Trump changed everything."
The "Cheesehead Revolution," as Walker and Priebus dubbed it, began in 2011. With Ryan rising in the House, Walker a new governor, and Priebus taking over the party apparatus, the trio then represented what looked to be a unified party in a swing state that could become a GOP stronghold in presidential races to come.
But in 2012, Mitt Romney lost to incumbent Barack Obama, with Ryan as his running mate. Priebus tried to steer the party in a more inclusive direction.
In 2013, he issued the "Growth and Opportunity Project," aimed toward an immigration overhaul and outreach to minorities, and driven by the recognition that Hispanics in particular were rising as a proportion of the population.
Now that tract is known as an autopsy report.
The recommendations put Priebus at odds with more conservative Republicans. And now, two of the three remaining presidential candidates, Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, have built their campaigns not on trying to broaden the party by reaching out to Hispanics and minorities, but by appealing to evangelicals and more conservative white voters.