INDIANAPOLIS—Donald Trump stormed to victory in the Indiana primary Tuesday, chasing Ted Cruz from the presidential race and virtually locking down the Republican nomination despite the strong misgivings of many in the party who fear a November rout.
For the third week in a row — following a string of landslide primary wins across the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states — the outcome was never in doubt.
But Trump’s powerful showing in Indiana was the most significant of all; the Midwest was a region where the Manhattan real estate magnate had struggled and the state was viewed by many as the last best chance for Trump opponents to slow his steamrolling campaign.
“It’s over,” Republican strategist Curt Anderson said even before Cruz officially ended his campaign. “Done. Finished.”
Trump’s win was also a major setback for John Kasich, his other remaining GOP rival, and the forces seeking to block Trump’s takeover of the party.
The victory was not unexpected. Polls showed a close race turning Trump’s direction in the final days of the primary campaign. As Trump sailed closer to the nomination, Cruz made the moves of a candidate who saw his hopes rapidly fading.
He formed a shaky noncompete alliance with Kasich, who stood aside in Tuesday’s contest to boost Cruz’s chances. He named his prospective vice presidential running mate, former business executive Carly Fiorina, forging ahead on an announcement usually left until the primary fight is over.
On Tuesday morning, as Hoosiers went to the polls, the Texas senator leveled one of his most scathing attacks on Trump, calling the Republican front-runner a “pathological liar,” “utterly amoral,” “a serial philanderer” and “a narcissist at a level I don’t think this country’s ever seen.”
Hours earlier, in a Fox News interview, Trump had referred to an unsubstantiated National Enquirer report linking Cruz’s father, Rafael, to Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of President Kennedy.
“I guess I should go ahead and admit — yes, my dad killed JFK,” Cruz sarcastically told reporters. “He is secretly Elvis and Jimmy Hoffa is buried in his backyard.”
Trump flicked him aside.
“Ted Cruz is a desperate candidate trying to save his failing campaign,” the Manhattan business mogul said. “Today’s ridiculous outburst only proves what I have been saying for a long time, that Ted Cruz does not have the temperament to be president of the United States.”
Cruz’s seeming desperation underscored the high stakes in Tuesday’s primary, widely seen as the last chance for Trump’s opponents and many critics to stop him short of winning the GOP presidential nomination and leading Republicans — many openly hostile toward his candidacy — into the fall campaign.
Indiana will award 57 delegates on a winner-takes-most basis, a small fraction of the 1,237 needed to secure the nomination ahead of the party’s national convention in Cleveland this summer. But the state’s import went far beyond that number.
Moderately conservative with a stolid Midwest sensibility, Indiana was seen as the last true tossup left on the GOP calendar and, for the anti-Trump movement, a crucial chance to stop his gathering momentum after a half-dozen big wins along the East Coast.
Cruz also enjoyed advantages he lacked in others states, including the endorsement — albeit lukewarm — of its governor, Mike Pence, and millions of dollars in advertising from independent groups working against Trump.
Entering the day, Republican front-runner Trump had 996 delegates. Cruz and Kasich trailed far behind, with 565 and 153 delegates, respectively.
A victory, Trump repeatedly told audiences, would close out the long, raucous fight for the GOP nomination. “If we win Indiana, it’s over,” he told a crowd Sunday in Terre Haute.
There are still five weeks left in the primary season, though, and Trump cannot win all the delegates needed for the nomination until California and four other states vote June 7.