Does Donald Trump really want to be President? As he stumbled from crisis to crisis in the worst fortnight of his campaign, it was a reasonable question to ask. Surely, only a subconscious desire to self-sabotage could explain his remark that “there has to be some form of punishment” for women who have abortions.

Maybe by saying that the world needs more nuclear weapons, Trump was seeking to demonstrate that he is unfit for high office. Perhaps he has been trying to do so all along, terrified of trading his life of wealth and celebrity without responsibility for the relentless grind of politics and policy.

Trump is famous for firing people, but two of his recent hires show that, contrary to appearances, he is in it for the long haul. The most notable is Paul Manafort, a veteran Republican operative who made his name fending off Ronald Reagan’s challenge to Gerald Ford in 1976. Nobody is more experienced at persuading and coercing delegates. Trump’s outsider campaign has just brought another consummate Washington DC insider on board.

The second addition is John Sweeney, known to President George W. Bush as “Congressman Kickass” for his role in the so-called ‘Brooks Brothers riot’ that stopped a recount that could have awarded the 2000 presidential election to Al Gore. To buy time for the Republican legal team, Sweeney and his goons stamped and shouted and hammered on the doors of the election commission in Miami.

In short, Trump is girding for a fight - either a drawn-out struggle to win over delegates before the Republican Convention in July, a brawl on the convention floor in Cleveland, or both.

On the night of the Wisconsin primary, Tuesday April 5, the Republican front-runner holed up in Trump Tower in New York to ignore defeat as best he could. His rival, Senator Ted Cruz, was at the American Serb Hall in Milwaukee, hailing his comprehensive victory as a “turning point” in the race.

Trump’s support did not collapse. At 35%, he won roughly the same share as he did in neighbouring states, but with John Kasich picking up just 14%, Cruz was able to capture 48% of the vote. More importantly, he won 36 delegates to 6 for Trump.

In lieu of a concession speech, Trump’s campaign issued a press release: “Ted Cruz is worse than a puppet - he is a Trojan horse, being used by the party bosses attempting to steal the nomination from Mr. Trump.” Senior establishment figures have openly discussed nominating House Speaker Paul Ryan if Trump fails to secure the 1,237 delegates needed to win automatically on the first ballot.

To do that, he needs to win 58% of the bound delegates in the remaining primaries, starting with his home state of New York on April 19. The latest Monmouth University poll shows him with a commanding lead here: 52% of the registered Republicans surveyed said they would cast a ballot for Trump, 25% said they would vote for Kasich and just 17% for Cruz.

When Cruz decried Trump’s “New York values,” at a Republican debate in January, he earned mocking front page treatment in the New York tabloids. His ultra-conservative platform will find some support in rural areas, but in the city, it is a liability. A campaign stop in the Bronx on Wednesday was interrupted by Latino political activists shouting “this is an immigrant community… to receive this right wing bigot is an insult”.

North-eastern states Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island go to the polls on April 26. Trump currently leads in all five states. Tactical voting could conceivably lift Kasich - it’s not clear how much it helped Cruz in Wisconsin - but the best he can do is deprive Trump of delegates.

Trump can still secure an absolute majority before the convention. He will certainly come close, and is guaranteed to have the largest share, but it will be a desperate scramble all the way to California on June 7. The Golden State is the last to vote and the biggest prize, with 172 delegates.

Rules about who delegates are obliged to support and for how long vary from state to state. The Cruz campaign has proved adept at picking up unbound delegates, prompting the Manafort hire. It’s worth bearing in mind that delegates are people, mostly longtime Republican office-holders and volunteers. On a second or third ballot, when they are free to back any candidate, these card-carrying conservatives are more likely to pick Cruz.

The Texan Senator has described the possibility of Ryan or another compromise candidate emerging at the convention as a pipe dream. "It ain't gonna happen,” he said. “If it did happen, the people would quite rightly revolt.”

Roger Stone, Manafort’s old business partner, went further, promising “days of rage” in Cleveland if Trump is denied the nomination and threatening to reveal the hotel room numbers of any delegates that switch sides.

“We have to let the Republican bosses and the kingmakers and the insiders and the lobbyists know that we’re not going to stand for the big steal,” Stone wrote, in an open letter to Trump supporters. “So, as they used to say, don’t wait for orders from headquarters. Ride to the sound of the guns… Ride to where the action will be.”

Trump’s campaign may have started as a publicity stunt. Now winning is all that matters.