Indiana Makes Trump The Presumptive Nominee: Cruz Exits

Indiana was supposed to be the pragmatic Midwestern state that would deny Donald Trump the delegates he needs to secure the Republican presidential nomination. Yet, on the eve of Tuesday’s critical primary, Indiana appeared poised to help the front-runner get closer to locking it up. By the time the counting was over, Trump had lived up to his bravado and very convincingly beat back Ted Cruz yet again.

As the votes came pouring in, delivering a landslide for Trump, Ted Cruz announced that he would suspend his campaign.

Cruz was a huge upset winner in the primary for a Texas senate seat and managed to beat out 15 of the 17 candidates for the Republican nomination for president, but even he couldn’t stand up to the Trump buzz saw. He did far better than anyone thought he would, building a sharp campaign and raising enough money to keep it going until the bitter end.

Cruz’s campaign hit its zenith in February, when he resoundingly won the Iowa caucuses, due in large part to months of cultivating grassroots support in the state. But it soon became a roller-coaster ride of crushing losses in states where Cruz expected to do well, including South Carolina and Georgia, followed by resounding wins in his home state of Texas and Wisconsin. Cruz’s campaign used its grasp of the delegate process to beat Trump at state conventions where delegates were chosen, but it was not enough to overcome the businessman’s tally and strength with the electorate.

The fact that Cruz remained one of the last candidates standing in a once-crowded field would have been viewed as improbable when he entered the race 14 months earlier. Cruz, the first major candidate to enter the race, is a first-term senator best known for getting under the skin of his Senate colleagues and championing controversial tactics to block the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. He was painted as a long-shot underdog who was too religious and conservative to advance beyond the early nominating contests.

Addressing his supporters Tuesday evening, Cruz said, “We are suspending our campaign, but I am not suspecting our fight for liberty…our movement will continue.”

“From the beginning, I’ve said that I would continue on as long as there was a viable path to victory,” Cruz said, with his wife Heidi by his side. “Tonight I’m sorry to say it appears that path has been foreclosed.

“With a heavy heart, but with boundless optimism for the long-term future of our nation, we are suspending our campaign.”

Trump campaigned Monday across the Hoosier State with characteristic gusto, boasting about his polling lead and endorsements from local celebrities and relishing a fight with likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Certain that victory was at hand, Trump predicted that Tuesday’s balloting would bring the demise of his top rival. From here, he said, it is on to the general election.

“If we win Indiana, it’s over,” Trump declared at a boisterous Monday afternoon rally in Carmel. “They’re finished. They’re gone.”

On Tuesday, Cruz unleashed a blistering attack against Trump, calling him “amoral,” a “pathological liar,” ‘’kooky” and ‘’nuts,” and warning that the country could “plunge into the abyss” if he is elected president.

Trump responded by saying that Cruz “does not have the temperament to be president of the United States.” Earlier Tuesday, Trump rehashed claims that the Texan’s father, Rafael Cruz, appeared in a 1963 photograph with John F. Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald.

Republican leaders spent months dismissing Trump as little more than an entertainer who would fade once voting started. Cruz was among those who actively tried to align themselves with Trump and called him “terrific.”

As Trump began to pick up wins, Cruz became more critical of his rival’s policies. Still, his torrent of attacks Tuesday was by far the most pointed and personal of the campaign to date.it was an act of desperation and it didn’t work.

Trump won seven straight primary contests and has over 80 percent of the delegates needed to secure the GOP nomination. Cruz, as well as Ohio Governor John Kasich, can hoped to keep him from the 1,237 delegates he needs and push the GOP race to a contested convention.

Cruz spent the week camped out in Indiana, securing the support of the state’s governor and announcing Carly Fiorina, the retired technology executive, as his running mate. That move backfired, as it was mocked as cynical and desperate.

Trump devoted more time to campaigning in Indiana than he has to most other states, underscoring his eagerness to put his Republican rival away and shift his attention toward Clinton.

The Indiana primary, with its 57 delegates, stood in the minds of many Republicans as the last major hurdle for Trump to clear. Cruz and his allies poured every resource and maneuver at their disposal into the state in an urgent, last-ditch failed effort to derail Trump.

“They not only put all their chips in the Indiana basket, but they made it very clear how desperate they’ve become. They have tried everything imaginable,” said Pete Seat, a well-connected Indiana GOP operative whose firm has advised the Kasich campaign. “It feels like this is slipping away from Ted Cruz pretty rapidly.”

On a frenetic final day of campaigning, Cruz faced uncomfortable questions about the viability of his floundering candidacy. Although he previously held up Indiana as a must-win state, as polls began predicting a big loss, the senator from Texas argued that he could sustain the loss and still force a contested party convention and wrest the nomination from Trump in Cleveland.

Trump was buoyed in Indiana by two main forces. First, his populist message about trade deals that hurt workers and a “rigged” and “corrupt” political system resonated in a state whose manufacturing economy is hollowing out. All spring, Trump has hammered Carrier for shuttering its Indianapolis furnace factory and relocating to Mexico – a plant closing that has gotten considerable local news attention.

“You cannot underestimate the impact that Trump winning all counties last week in the ‘Acela primary’ had on Indiana,” veteran GOP strategist Scott Reed said, referring to five East Coast primaries that Trump swept. “A month ago, Cruz was leading Trump by 20 percent in Indiana. Trump’s wins, coupled with landing his plane in state, has driven voters into his column.”

Republican pollster Robert Blizzard, who worked for a Bush PAC, said before the vote that if the anti-Trump efforts in Indiana collapse, “it will be increasingly difficult for either Senator Cruz or Governor Kasich to make an argument in upcoming primary contests they can stop Trump.”

He’s not a happy camper. “There’s no doubt we’re going to face an uphill general election contest with Trump at the top of the ticket and it’s time to figure out how our candidates, from U.S. Senate to Congress to state legislature, compete on that battlefield.”

Cruz came face to face with the forces working against him outside a campaign stop, where he approached a handful of Trump supporters who had been heckling him from across the street with jeers such as “Lyin’ Ted” and “Hey, Cruz, do the math.”

Cruz approached and engaged the demonstrators. One of them told him, “Indiana don’t want you.”

“Sir, America is a better country, “ Cruz said, at which point the man interrupted to say: “Without you.”

Cruz began the day in Osceola, where he shook hands with people at the Bravo Cafe. From there, he told reporters that the election in Indiana was boiling down to a choice between crudeness and decency – “a choice about our national character” that Hoosiers could get right.

“I trust the good people of Indiana to differentiate,” Cruz said. “We are not a country built on hatred. We are not a country built on anger, built on pettiness. We are not a country built on bullying. We are not a country about selfishness.”

Cruz campaigned alongside Governor Mike Pence, who confused Republicans on Friday by praising Trump at the same time he gave Cruz a lukewarm endorsement. Cruz’s surrogates, including his vice presidential running mate, fanned out to deliver a similar message. Yet a video that circulated online of her falling down at a rally Sunday in Lafayette threatened to overshadow her closing pitch to voters.

Trump told his fans in Carmel, “She fell off the stage the other day. Did anybody see that? And Cruz didn’t do anything. Even I would’ve helped her!”

“That’s really cruel,” Trump added. “She went down right in front of him, and he just kept talking.”

Cruz touted his outsider status and contempt for what he called the “Washington cartel” of politicians and lobbyists in politics to get rich. He made the enmity of his Senate colleagues a point of pride, joking about needing a “food taster” in the Senate dining room. He made it clear that no other candidate would get to the right of him, particularly on the issue of immigration.

But then came Donald Trump.

Cruz made an early, conscious decision to buddy up to Trump, brushing aside his caustic comments about Mexicans and praising his toughness on immigration.

The two met at Trump Tower in July, where Cruz invited Trump to tour the U.S.-Mexico border with him. Trump went, but Cruz could not because of Senate votes. Cruz and Trump both appeared at a rally against the Iranian nuclear deal on Capitol Hill in September.

As rivals were punching at Trump during the fall and quickly seeing their poll numbers drop as the businessman swatted back at them, Cruz lavished praise on his rival.

Cruz also tacked sharply to the right in order to compete with Trump’s rhetoric. Cruz’s immigration proposals grew tougher the longer Trump was in the race. He criticized Trump’s plan for mass deportation of illegal immigrants, then seemed to support it. He spoke of being weary of foreign intervention, but promised to “carpet bomb” the Islamic State to see if “sand can glow in the dark” there. He introduced a bill to bar refugees from Syria and other groups.

In December, as Cruz’s poll numbers were up, he was caught on tape saying at a closed-door fundraiser that Trump may not have the judgment to be president. Cruz moved to smooth over the fracas, but Trump pounced. Trump doesn’t attack until he is attacked and that comment made Cruz a marked man. A few weeks later, Trump questioned whether Cruz, who was born in Canada, is eligible to be president.

Cruz then went on an offensive against Trump. It seemed to work, with Cruz beating Trump in the Iowa caucuses. But the momentum stopped in New Hampshire, where Trump won by big margins before marching to victories in South Carolina and Nevada. Cruz won Texas and Wisconsin gave him enough boosts to keep his campaign going.

Cruz’s anti “New York values” quote came back to hurt him bad in that state. He decided to concentrate on Indiana, thinking he would do well there and basically staked his future on the outcome there.

On Monday, Cruz warned Hoosiers of Trump. “This man is lying to you and he’s taking advantage of you,” he said. That man responded by telling “Lyin’ Ted,” “You’ll find out tomorrow. Indiana don’t want you.”

That time, at least, the man wasn’t lying.

Trump made an unannounced visit to Shapiro’s Delicatessen in downtown Indianapolis for lunch, where he was swarmed by well-wishers. One man asked the candidate to autograph his $50 bill; Trump obliged, black Sharpie in hand. Trump said his mind has been focused on the general election and Clinton.

Then he sat down for lunch with two aides and a guest: author Edward Klein, who has written a series of bombshell books about the Clintons.

It was unclear what they discussed, but a few hours later in Carmel, Trump gleefully gave his crowd a preview of the Clinton attacks to come.

“Folks, I haven’t even started yet,” Trump said. “Now I’m going to start focusing on Hillary. It’s going to be so easy. It’s going to be so great.”

And now there is no one in his way to stop him from doing that.

The Washington Post and the Associated Press contributed to this report.