Donald Trump set for Republican nomination as Cruz drops out
Resounding Indiana victory turns focus to November presidential election and Hillary Clinton
Businessman Donald Trump scored a resounding victory in Indiana’s Republican primary forcing his chief rival, Texas senator Ted Cruz, to quit the race for the White House and clearing the New Yorker’s path to his party’s presidential nomination.
Mr Trump’s landslide win in the midwestern state - his seventh straight victory - and Mr Cruz’s shock decision to drop out means that the reality TV star’s journey to the 1,237 convention delegates he needs to win the nomination appears little more than a formality.
The result in Indiana, the 41st state to vote in the Republican presidential race, all but guarantees a head-to-head fight between Mr Trump and Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic candidate despite a loss in Indiana, in the presidential election in November.
Mr Cruz’s departure removes the only serious opponent that could stop Mr Trump from bagging the party’s presidential nomination before the convention in July.
“It’s a beautiful thing to watch, and a beautiful thing to behold,” said a jubilant Mr Trump in a victory speech at his Trump Tower skyscraper in New York City.
“We are going to make America great again,” he declared.
In the Democratic race, Vermont senator Bernie Sanders beat front-runner Hillary Clinton in Indiana, giving him a psychological lift that will push the party’s presidential primary right up to the final state contest in California in June.
A net gain of at least six delegates from Mr Sanders’s 52 per cent to 48 per cent victory over Mrs Clinton will do little, however, to close her lead of 321 pledged delegates and 481 super-delegates in her march to the 2,383-delegate finish line.
Following the victory, Mr Sanders said: “The Clinton campaign thinks this campaign is over. They’re wrong. Maybe it’s over for the insiders and the party establishment, but the voters in Indiana had a different idea.”
Mr Trump, if formally named as the party’s candidate in November’s ballot, would be the first presidential nominee not to have held political office since Dwight Eisenhower.
His almost 17-point win over Mr Cruz - 53 to 37 per cent - gives Mr Trump at least 51 pledged convention delegates, extending his tally to 1,047.
The outsider has stunned the US political establishment by harnessing a Republican base frustrated at the Washington elite, toppling a field of 15 candidates packed with senators, governors and party insiders in a insurgent and vitriolic campaign.
Indiana primary results
Mr Trump’s performance in Indiana extends his broad support amongst Republicans from the south and his home base in the north-east to the American mid-west as the US presidential election heads west before the primary season ends in California on June 7th.
Standing on a stage next to his wife Heidi and two young daughters in Indianapolis, Mr Cruz (45) bowed to the inevitable after his crushing defeat in Indiana, a state he needed to win to continue his challenge against Mr Trump.
“From the beginning, I have said that I will continue on as long as there is a viable path to victory. Tonight, I am sorry to say, it appears that path has been closed,” said the Texan to cries of “No!” and “Don’t do it!” from shocked and many tearful supporters.
Mr Cruz told the disappointed crowd that “we left it all on the field in Indiana” and announced that he was ending his bid for the White House.
“We gave it everything we’ve 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,” he said, in a speech that did not mention Mr Trump.
‘One hell of a competitor’
After Mr Cruz spoke, Republican national committee chairman Reince Priebus tweeted that Mr Trump was now the party’s presumptive nominee and urged the party to “unite and focus on defeating Hillary Clinton.”
The billionaire praised Mr Cruz as “a smart tough guy” and “one hell of a competitor.”
The rare compliments from the businessman came after a bruising final day of campaigning when Mr Trump claimed Mr Cruz’s father associated with president John F Kennedy’s assassin Lee Harvey Oswald months before his murder and Mr Cruz responded by calling the New Yorker “a pathological liar,” “utterly amoral,” “a bully,” “a narcissist at a level I don’t think this country has ever seen” and a “serial philanderer”.
Mr Trump’s resounding victories in New York on April 19th and five other north-eastern states on April 26th made it mathematically impossible for Mr Cruz to win the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the nomination on a first ballot at the convention.
He had hoped for a win in Indiana to close off Mr Trump’s path to the 1,237 delegates and push the Republican race to a fight at the party’s national convention in Cleveland in July where he had hoped to win with unbound delegates in a second or later ballot.
The result in Indiana deals a devastating blow to the wider “Never Trump” movement that coalesced behind Mr Cruz in an attempt to stop the billionaire.
The only other Republican candidate, Ohio governor John Kasich, has indicated that he will stay in the race, despite only one state victory, his home state, under his belt.
“Tonight’s results are not going to alter Governor Kasich’s campaign plans,” said John Weaver, Mr Kasich’s chief strategist. “Our strategy has been and continues to be one that involves winning the nomination at an open convention.”
In a desperate last throw of the dice to win Indiana and to keep his presidential bid alive, Mr Cruz had taken the unusual step of naming former Hewlett Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina as his running mate in the days leading up to the state’s primary.
He also devised a pact with Mr Kasich that allowed him to challenge Mr Trump alone in the Hoosier State while the Ohio governor focused on later state voting in the primary.
Neither strategy worked, and the conservative firebrand who ran a campaign against big government and defending religious liberty and the constitution even lost evangelical Christians and conservatives, his supposed core base of support, to Mr Trump.
“I am upset because I am a dual citizen and I know what’s going to happen with this country if we continue with the policies of big government,” said Cruz supporter Fiona Moodie (24), from Maryland, after breaking down in tears at his Indianapolis event.
Ms Moodie’s mother, who had tears running down her cheek, berated this reporter, blaming the media for the failure of his campaign and promoting Mr Trump’s candidacy.
“I am a little surprised,” said Kyle Wilson (26), a dispatcher for a truck company from Greenfield, Indiana, looking shell-shocked after Mr Cruz delivered his bombshell.
“I thought he was going to a contested convention because I think if he could have gotten through the first vote, I think he could have had it.”
Richard Hiles (51), a retired US military serviceman from Charleston, West Virginia, called Mr Cruz “the better man” who would have protected American from the establishment. He was furious about the choice now facing him in the November election.
“Donald Trump is a member of the establishment as much as Hillary Clinton is,” he said. “And now we have been given no choice but between Stalin and Hitler.”
At the back of Cruz’s final campaign event, Samantha Drake was selling “Keep Calm and Cruz On” and other t-shirts, once priced at $20, for a reduced price of $5.
“I’ll either sell them at discounted prices or donate them to charity,” she said.