By Jonathan Easley
Donald Trump won the Indiana primary in dominating fashion on Tuesday, ending Ted Cruz’s campaign and leaving the businessman as the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee. Cruz’s decision to suspend his campaign leaves no doubt about who will be the GOP’s nominee.
It will be Trump, the celebrity businessman who was mocked as unserious when he entered the campaign and whose demise was repeatedly predicted by the political press.
The victory guarantees Trump at least 30 of Indiana’s 57 delegates, pushing him over 1,000 as he approaches the 1,237 he needs to clinch the nomination. He’s also likely to win the remaining 27 delegates given to the winner of each of Indiana’s nine congressional districts.
That would leave him needing fewer than 200 delegates to get to 1,237, something that is no longer in any doubt. The results were devastating for Cruz, who had played up Indiana as the moment when his candidacy would regain momentum.
With his family surrounding him on stage, Cruz said he would end his campaign but vowed that the conservative movement he leads would go on.
“From the beginning, I’ve said that I would continue on as long as there was a viable path to victory,” Cruz said to audible wails from some of his supporters.
“Tonight, I’m sorry to say it appears that that path has been foreclosed,” he concluded. “We gave it everything we got, but the voters chose another path. And so with a heavy heart, but with boundless optimism for the long-term future of our nation, we are suspending our campaign.”
Cruz offered no congratulations to Trump in his remarks, and did not mention the front-runner by name at all.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, whose campaign pledged earlier Tuesday night that it would continue in the race, tweeted at the Texas senator after his speech.
Trump is unlikely to formally clinch the nomination until June 7, when California and five other states vote, but he’s considered a lock to win all 51 of New Jersey’s delegates that day, as well as a large Trump also is a huge favorite to win West Virginia’s primary on the same night.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were locked in a tight contest. The result means the two will split Indiana’s delegates, which effectively moves Clinton closer to clinching the nomination given her large lead on Sanders.
The Hoosier State defeat capped a rough 24 hours for Cruz, who on Monday found himself taking insults from Trump supporters and on Tuesday morning launched into a tirade against the GOP front-runner, who had started his primary day by calling in to a morning talk show to highlight a tabloid story linking Cruz’s father to President John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.
Cruz, appearing angry and frustrated, unloaded on the businessman a few hours later, calling his statements “nuts” and Trump a “pathological liar” and “narcissist.”
“Donald Trump is such a narcissist that Barack Obama looks at him and says, ‘Dude, what’s your problem?’” Cruz said. “Whatever lie he’s telling, in that minute he believes it. But the man is utterly amoral.
Morality does not exist for him.” Trump goaded his rival on Twitter immediately after networks called Indiana in his favor, calling for him to drop out of the race. “Wow, Lyin’ Ted Cruz really went wacko today,” Trump tweeted. “Made all sorts of crazy charges. Can’t function under pressure – not very presidential. Sad!”
It was a performance that raised serious doubts over whether Cruz, who earlier in the day said he would be campaigning in Nebraska on Wednesday, could ever offer an endorsement of Trump.
Cruz’s tone was markedly different in his concession speech, which mostly offered praise to his family and supporters.
“What you have done, the movement that you have started is extraordinary. I love each and every one of you,” he said to cheers from the crowd.
The nastiness between Trump and Cruz seemed likely to auger a new series of questions about how the Republican Party will rally around a candidate who few in the GOP thought would ever be its presidential nominee.
There have been signs in the past two weeks of establishment Republicans warming to Trump as his nomination becomes more of a certainty.
Yet there remain pockets of opposition to Trump — including from the Never Trump PAC.
While that group acknowledged the Indiana victory will make it difficult to stop Trump, it said he would lead the GOP to a terrible defeat in November that would make Clinton the president and cost Republicans seats in the House and Senate.
“Never does not mean maybe,” the group said. Cruz had pulled out all the stops in Indiana to stop Trump.
He formed an alliance with Kasich, who canceled events in Indiana to give Cruz a better chance of defeating Trump.
And Cruz named Carly Fiorina as his running mate, an unusual move meant to jolt his campaign with new momentum.
It seemed to have little effect, as the momentum behind Trump grew and grew.
An Oregon poll released last week found Trump way ahead with 43 percent support. Cruz, who has said he won’t play in the state, comes in second at 26 percent, with Kasich in third at 17 percent.