Donald Trump, the billionaire real-estate developer who has upended the rules of modern campaigning, became the presumptive Republican presidential nominee on Tuesday after driving his top challenger, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, from the race with a crushing Indiana primary win.
Ohio Governor John Kasich, who was to be Trump’s only remaining challenger from a field that once included 17 candidates, is expected to formally announce his exit from the race Wednesday afternoon.
Trump’s victory sets up a likely all-New Yorker presidential general election between himself and Hillary Clinton, who remained on pace to secure the Democratic nomination even after a loss to Senator Bernie Sanders in Indiana.
Trump’s Indiana win and the exits of Cruz and Kasich clear the way for him to secure the 1,237 delegates needed to win the nomination outright next month and avoid a fight at the party’s national convention in July. His larger hurdle -- one he showed signs of starting to address -- will be trying to mend a deeply fractured party following a brutal primary fight.
Trump said Wednesday on NBC that he’s "confident" that he can unite much of the party behind him. “Some of it I don’t want,” he added.
“In Ted’s case it would be nice,” Trump said, after lauding Cruz for his exit from the race during in an appearance Tuesday night at Trump Tower in New York.
Republican DivisionsReaching out to Cruz was just a first step. Republican leaders have been slow to embrace Trump -- he’s received relatively few endorsements from elected officials and donors -- and some members of the establishment may never do so.
Trump, who’s never held elected office, enters the next phase of the campaign with roughly two-thirds of Americans holding a negative view of him, polls show, well above percentages in the low 50s that Clinton typically scores.
In a CNN/ORC poll released Wednesday, Clinton led Trump nationally by 13 percentage points.
After landslide wins in five northeastern state primaries a week ago, Trump declared himself the presumptive nominee. On Tuesday night, the Republican party’s national chairman, Reince Priebus, said on Twitter that he agrees with that assessment.
“It’s time to unite,” Priebus added Wednesday on CNN, saying Cruz’s exit was “gracious” and “unexpected.”
Facing ClintonLooking toward the general election, Trump said Tuesday night that he’d be "going after" the Democratic front-runner. "She will not be a great president, she will not be a good president, she will be a poor president," he said.
John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman, responded with a statement highly critical of the presumptive Republican nominee.
“Fundamentally, our next president will need to do two things: keep our nation safe in a dangerous world and help working families get ahead here at home," he said. "Donald Trump is not prepared to do either. Throughout this campaign, Donald Trump has demonstrated that he’s too divisive and lacks the temperament to lead our nation and the free world."
Sanders, at a news conference following his Indiana win, said he wasn’t worried that a prolonged Democratic primary would hurt the party’s eventual nominee. Instead, he argued that his campaign has brought “millions of people into the political process” and pointed to polls showing that Democratic voters have been invigorated by the primary.
Boosting Turnout“So, I have no doubt, zero doubt, that what we have done in this campaign, what we are doing now, and what we will do in the next six weeks is good for the Democratic Party and it will result in a higher voter turnout,” he said.
His victory will do little to diminish Clinton’s nearly insurmountable delegate lead. She has 2,202 pledged delegates and superdelegates, 92 percent of the of the 2,383 needed to win the nomination, according to an Associated Press tally. After Indiana, Sanders had 1,400, or about 59 percent.
The continued presence of Sanders in the race creates a delicate balancing act for Clinton, who needs to be careful not to be dismissive of him and his supporters while also trying to pivot to her opponent in the general election.
Cruz’s WithdrawalCruz announced that he’d halt his presidential campaign after Trump’s victory became apparent.
While he had vowed to stay in the race as long as he had a chance at the nomination, “It appears that path has been foreclosed," Cruz said during an appearance in Indiana. "Together, we left it all on the field in Indiana. We gave it everything we’ve got, but the voters chose another path."
Trump’s massive win, projected to include at least 51 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 results dealt a death 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.
“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," Katie Packer Gage, who leads the anti-Trump Our Principles PAC, said in a statement.
With 99 percent of Indiana precincts reporting, Trump had won 53.3 percent, followed by Cruz with 36.7 percent and Kasich with 7.5 percent, according to the Associated Press. On the Democratic side, Sanders had 52.7 percent to Clinton’s 47.3 percent.
Ted Cruz Ends Presidential Bid
Exit polling conducted Tuesday by the television networks and the Associated Press showed some of the factors behind Trump’s victory.
He won men by more than 25 percentage points. He won among all age groups, 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, 50 percent to 43 percent, a voting bloc that Cruz had courted intensely and is more naturally aligned with him than Trump.
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. He’d long argued that if he could get a one-on-one match-up with Trump, he’d emerge the victor.
The rhetoric between Trump and Cruz 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.
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.