What to watch for in the Indiana primary

Indiana stands alone Tuesday, the only state holding a presidential primary, but the presidential race in both parties could look very different Wednesday morning.

Ted Cruz’s last stand?

Two weeks ago, Cruz told an Indiana crowd, “The state of Indiana is going to play a pivotal role in this election … Indiana’s voice, Indiana’s megaphone to the country, will decide which path this party goes down, which path this country goes down.”

That statement was a few days before Cruz had his clock cleaned in the “Amtrak primaries,” five northeastern states that Donald Trump swept. Cruz won only two delegates while Trump won more than 100.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich took the extraordinary step of dropping his campaign in Indiana so that Cruz could consolidate the “anti-Trump” vote, and Cruz took the extraordinary step of naming his running mate — former presidential candidate Carly Fiorina — despite trailing in the delegate race. But it is not clear those efforts have helped much. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll released Sunday gave Trump a lead of 49%-34% over Cruz.

govote_small_small What to watch for in the Indiana primary

Indiana offers 57 Republican delegates, 30 statewide and three each in nine congressional districts. All of those delegates are distributed on a winner-take-all basis. If Trump wins all or most of them, the requiems for the Cruz campaign will begin to roll in.

Sanders still slugging it out

Hillary Clinton has a lead of nearly 350 “pledged” delegates, and nearly 500 “superdelegates.” Combined, she is a little more than 200 delegates short of clinching the nomination; Sanders is about 1,000 delegates short. So Indiana can’t clinch the nomination for Clinton, but a win there can help her make the case that the race for the Democratic nomination is basically over.

A Sanders victory in the Hoosier state would be a bit of an embarrassment to Clinton, but it would do nothing to change the fundamental math of the race. Indiana has 83 Democratic delegates at stake Tuesday, but since they are distributed proportionately, Sanders cannot make a significant dent in Clinton’s delegate lead even with a win.

Nevertheless, Sanders said Sunday, “It is virtually impossible for Secretary Clinton to reach the majority of convention delegates … with pledged delegates alone. She will need superdelegates to take her over the top at the convention in Philadelphia.” Sanders says he will continue to campaign through the remaining dozen states, and “We believe that we are in a very strong position to win many of these remaining contests.”

Clinton has led Sanders in all public polls in the state, with a lead ranging from 5 to 13 percentage points, but Indiana is an open primary — independents can vote in the Democratic primary — which has been helpful for Sanders in other states where he has drawn support from new voters and non-Democrats.

One vote, two time zones

Indiana polls close early — 6 p.m. —  but 6 p.m comes an hour later in the dozen western counties that are in the central time zone. Nevertheless, it means we should have results before the 11 o’clock news.