Ted Cruz hits a dead end in Indiana
Trump adds midwest to his victories putting him in pole position to face Clinton
Donald Trump pays tribute to rival Ted Cruz at his victory party in Trump Tower in Manhattan, describing him as “one hell of a competitor”. Photograph: Lucas Jackson/Reuters
Indiana is described as the “crossroads of America”, and Texas senator Ted Cruz came here hoping that he could find a route out of the midwestern state to the Republican presidential nomination around trailblazer Donald Trump. Instead, he ran into a dead end.
It was fitting that the last realistic hope for the “Never Trump” movement should bow of the race for the White House in a renovated former railway station in downtown Indianapolis. The first-term senator (45) was derailed by the Trump juggernaut, ending his journey in a state he had to win to maintain any hope of stopping the billionaire.
Ohio governor John Kasich, a distant third and the only remaining challenger to Trump after Indiana, bowed to the inevitable too and suspended his campaign yesterday.
That was wishful thinking and would have posed an existential risk for the party if it had decided to ignore the will of the 10.7 million voters who want the billionaire to be the party’s flag-bearer.
But it was Cruz’s suspension of his campaign that caused the biggest shockwaves on Tuesday night. “I am stunned that the people can’t see that if it is a vote for Trump, it is a vote for Hillary,” said Randy Hunter (68), a retired builder from Fort Worth, Texas, at Cruz’s final election event after campaigning for Cruz in his home state, Wisconsin and Indiana.
“I am confused,” said Damon Hood (24), an Indiana native, struggling to comprehend how a dyed-in-the-wool conservative and defender of religious and social conservative values could lose the moderately conservative Hoosier State.
“I’m from Indiana and never saw other Hoosiers doing this. It’s disappointing. People are angry. They want someone who will scream and yell and lie and scream ‘liar’.”
A furious Cruz supporter, Richard Hiles (51), a retired US military serviceman from Charleston, West Virginia, said voters faced an impossible dilemma in November to pick between Trump and Clinton.
“Now we have been given no choice but between Stalin and Hitler,” he said.
Reflecting the divisions that Trump has stirred in this Republican presidential primary, it took him until the 41st state contest and the businessman’s 28th state victory to knock his chief opponent out of the race and make him the party’s inevitable nominee.
The property mogul turned reality TV star turned presidential candidate turned nominee has come out on top after 11 months, seeing off a packed field of 16, mostly career politicians in a frenetic, controversy-filled campaign. He is the first party nominee not to have held elected office since Dwight Eisenhower.
Indiana’s 57 delegates was not enough to bring Trump over the 1,237-delegate finish line, but the departure of Cruz and Kasich make him reaching that target all but academic heading into the remaining nine state qualifying rounds.
Most significant win
Exit polls in Tuesday’s ballot found that six in every 10 voters in Indiana’s Republican primary identified themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians – a constituency that the Scripture-quoting Cruz should have comfortably won – but Trump beat Cruz amongst these voters by seven points.
It was another example of the wideranging support that this insurgent has secured in a campaign that has stunned Washington’s political elite.
“We left it all on the field in Indiana; we gave it everything we’ve got, but the voters chose another path,” a crestfallen Cruz said, surrounded by his family in Indianapolis to cries of “No!” and “Don’t do it!” from his shell-shocked supporters.
The Texas senator avoided mentioning Trump, the man who branded him “Lyin’ Ted” during their bruising primary battle, illustrating the deep divisions among Republicans.
‘Unite and focus’
In a sign of the wounds that must be healed, Indiana’s exit polls showed that 71 per cent of Cruz supporters would not vote Trump if he was the Republican nominee. A similar number said they would be “concerned or scared” if he was elected president.
An uncharacteristically reserved Trump paid tribute to Cruz at his victory party in the lobby of Trump Tower in Manhattan, calling him “one hell of a competitor”, but he quickly turned his attention – as have most political commentators – to Clinton and November.
“We’re going after Hillary Clinton, ” he said.
Vermont senator Bernie Sanders beat Clinton in Indiana’s Democratic primary by 52.7 to 47.5 per cent, but she is so far ahead in support among pledged delegates and super- delegates, the Democratic top brass, that she can lose the remaining contests and still win.
Still, Sanders can leave the crossroads in Indiana knowing that Democrats have at least given his common-man message, if not his candidacy, fuel to continue on his journey.