Blowout wins leave ‘stop Donald Trump’ campaign bruised
Republican strategist says Indiana win for billionaire would hand Clinton White House keys
If Donald Trump didn’t kill the “stop Trump” movement on Tuesday night, he left it battered and bruised.
The Republican front-runner’s case for the nomination was boosted with larger-than-expected blowout victories in five Northeastern states, raising his total state wins to 27 including most of the east coast and much of the south.
The Texas senator, and super-PACs working to help him or to stop Trump in Indiana, have just seven days to try to block the billionaire’s march to the nomination.
“I consider myself the presumptive nominee,” Trump declared in his victory speech on Tuesday night at Trump Tower.
“I think the party is seeing me that way” as well, he later added in response to a reporter’s question.
Scott Reed, who managed Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign and is now a political strategist for the US Chamber of Commerce, agreed. “Trump is now the inevitable GOP nominee,” he said.
Before Tuesday’s results came in, Trump needed 59 per cent. On May 3rd, Indiana’s Republican voters will award the largest remaining pool of statewide delegates for the victor, 30, in addition to 27 delegates allocated by the winners of congressional districts.
It’s a close contest: Trump leads Cruz narrowly in three recent Indiana polls by five, eight and six points, respectively. Failing to beat Trump in Indiana, the path to stopping him would narrow, if not vanish, without a drastic shift in the landscape.
Cruz’s strength in states like Nebraska, South Dakota and Montana won’t be enough to keep Trump under 1,237 delegates. California, which awards 172 delegates on a mostly winner-take-all basis by congressional district, appears to favor Trump. Three recent surveys there show him leading Cruz there by 27, 18, and seven points.
“There’s no question that efforts to stop Trump from winning the nomination, and essentially handing the White House to Hillary Clinton, rest largely in the hands of Indiana voters next week,” said Republican strategist Brian Walsh.
“Despite the fact that Cruz clearly has the better ground game in actual delegate selection, the basic first ballot math would make it difficult to stop Trump in the remaining states if he manages to win Indiana.”
If Cruz is planning on a final push to make up the difference against Trump, Tuesday brought bad news as late-deciders broke for John Kasich rather than him in three of the five states (the were no public exit polls in Delaware and Rhode Island), suggesting an uphill climb to make his case to Indianans in the next week.
Trump knocked both rivals in his victory speech. “Honestly, Senator Cruz and Governor Kasich should really get out of the race. They have no path to victory at all,” the clear front-runner said.
In Pennsylvania, exit polls showed that 60 per cent of voters and 59 per cent of Trump’s supporters said they “felt betrayed by Republican politicians,” another sign that a contested convention resulting in another nominee would leave the party badly damaged.
Trump’s victory grants him 17 statewide delegates and his comfortable margin could put pressure on the 54 “unbound” delegates to support him at the convention.
“The people of Indiana are going to play such an important role in the selection of our nominee,” Indiana Governor Mike Pence said during an interview in downtown Indianapolis. “This is really new for Indiana. This has only happened a couple of times in my lifetime.” He said he hasn’t decided whether to endorse in the race, but vowed to back whomever wins the nomination.
Cruz, who recently met Pence, spent Tuesday night in Indiana after his chief strategist unveiled a deal two days earlier with John Kasich in which the Texan “will focus time and resources in Indiana” while the Ohio governor directs his campaign’s resources in New Mexico and Oregon.
The alliance, announced Sunday, quickly proved awkward when Kasich said Monday that his supporters in Indiana should vote for him, rather than Cruz, before walking it back.
Trump’s fire-and-brimstone closing argument against the party’s nomination rules and accusations of “collusion” between his two remaining opponents were followed by even stronger support than polls predicted in the northeast.
It remains to be seen if the tag-team effort by Cruz and Kasich will ultimately help Trump more than it harms him, by feeding his narrative of a “rigged” party structure. Outside groups vying to block Trump from the nomination have also caught on to Indiana’s importance.
“I think they’re going all-out right now, but I think it might be a notch above all-out,’’ said Jack Edison, a 71-year-old retired teacher and basketball coach from Plymouth, Indiana, who is volunteering for Cruz. “I think they’ll dig in deeper.”
“It would seem to be to be that,” she said, “but he’ll never admit to that.”