Real-estate developer Donald Trump won the Republican presidential primary in Indiana on Tuesday, dealing a devastating blow to Ted Cruz’s effort to stop him from becoming the party’s presumptive nominee before the national convention in July.
Trump’s massive win, projected to include at least 45 of the 57 delegates at stake, followed a day of exchanges with Cruz that were especially hostile and personal in a nomination fight already notable for its rancor.
The Democratic race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders remained too close to call. The Vermont senator had 51.8 percent and the former secretary of state had 48.2 percent, with 41 percent of precincts reporting.
A week ago, after landslide wins in five northeastern state primaries, Trump declared himself the “presumptive nominee,” a description that the Indiana result bolsters even if Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich fight on through the last contests in June.
The results also dealt a blow to the “stop Trump” movement, a ragtag coalition of donors and others who had vowed to block a candidate many in the Republican establishment view as detrimental to the party’s chances in November. At least some anti-Trump forces showed no signs of backing down.
“A substantial number of delegates remain up for grabs in this highly unpredictable year,” Katie Packer Gage, who leads the anti-Trump Our Principles PAC, said in a statement after the results became clear. “We continue to give voice to the belief of so many Republicans that Trump is not a conservative, does not represent the values of the Republican Party, cannot beat Hillary Clinton, and is simply unfit to be president of the United States.”
With 40 percent of precincts reporting results, Trump had 52.6 percent of the vote. He was followed by Cruz at 36.7 percent and Kasich at 8 percent.
Kasich will remain in the race unless a candidate reaches 1,237 bound delegates before the convention in July because he’s best positioned to win the general election in November, chief strategist John Weaver said in a memo released by the campaign after the outcome was clear in Indiana.
“Tonight’s results are not going to alter Governor Kasich’s campaign plans,” Weaver said. “Our strategy has been and continues to be one that involves winning the nomination at an open convention.”
Preliminary results from exit polling conducted Tuesday by the television networks and the Associated Press showed some of the factors behind Trump’s victory.
He won among all age groups, except voters 17 to 24; all education levels, except those with post-graduate degrees, and among all income groups, according to CNN. Trump also beat Cruz among born-again or evangelical Christians, 49 percent to 44 percent, a voting bloc that Cruz had courted intensely and is more naturally aligned with him than Trump.
Six in 10 Republican voters said they want an “outsider candidate,” higher than the 52 percent average in previous party primaries this year, ABC News reported. More than 90 percent said they are either very or somewhat worried about the economy, exit polls show, according to AP.
Nearly six in 10 Republican primary voters said the nomination process has divided the party, much higher than the 22 percent of Democratic primary voters who said that. Almost three-quarters of Democratic voters said they think the primary process has energized the party, while just 40 percent of Republicans held that view.
In the days before the ballots were cast in Indiana, Cruz had taken to describing the state’s primary as a “cliff” facing the Republican Party and nation. It remains unclear what Cruz will do now that he’s been pushed over the edge.
In a sign that he has no plans to succumb to Trump, Cruz announced campaign stops Wednesday in Nebraska and Washington State, where primaries will be held later this month. He made that announcement before the Indiana results were known.
The junior senator from Texas had long argued that if he could get a one-on-one matchup with Trump, he’d emerge the victor. That didn’t happen, even after Cruz cut a deal that kept Kasich from campaigning in the state.
Indiana’s 57 delegates represent the biggest remaining cache other than California among the contests still to be held. The statewide winner gets 30, with each of nine congressional districts also awarding three each to the victor there.
If Trump manages a sweep or near-sweep of Indiana’s delegates, he’ll be well positioned to win the nomination on June 7 when California, New Jersey, and three other states hold the final contests. In the remaining nine Republican primaries, he’d need to win less than half of the delegates.
Prior to Tuesday’s voting, Trump led the Republican race with 996 delegates, according to an Associated Press tally. He was followed by Cruz at 565 and Kasich at 153. Trump would need to accumulate 1,237 delegates to take the nomination and avoid a Republican convention fight.
Trump and Cruz spent most of the past week in Indiana. The front-runner focused his message on manufacturing losses that include 1,400 jobs at a Carrier Corp. plant in Indianapolis, while maintaining his mocking of Cruz as “Lyin’ Ted.”
The rhetoric turned especially nasty on Tuesday, as voters were going to the polls, with Trump saying Cruz’s father had a link to John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.
Cruz responded by calling Trump a “pathological liar,” an amoral “narcissist,” and a proud “serial philanderer,” a video clip that could make its way into a Democratic ad for the general election.
Cruz had tried numerous headline-grabbing moves to try to shake up the race. He’s criticized Trump for receiving the endorsement of “convicted rapist” Mike Tyson, who served prison time after the champion boxer was found guilty of a sexual attack on a Miss Black America contestant in an Indianapolis hotel room in 1991.
He also announced a multi-state, non-compete agreement with Kasich, named former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina as his running mate, and repeatedly hammered Trump for indifference about transgender women using women’s restrooms.
Indiana’s social-conservative leanings offered Cruz potentially fertile ground, but his pact with Kasich to have the Ohio governor avoid campaigning there proved unpopular with voters. He also called a basketball hoop a “ring,” a major gaffe in a place where the sport is part of the state’s fabric.
In the closing days of the campaign, Cruz received a less-than-full-throated endorsement from Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who praised Trump at the same time. Trump has the backing of former Indiana University basketball coaching legend Bobby Knight, as well as former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz.