Addressing jubilant supporters at Trump Tower in New York after romping to his seventh straight state-wide victory in the Indiana primary, the real estate mogul promised them: “We’re going to win in November, and we’re going to win big, and it’s going to be America first.”
Tuesday’s contest in the midwestern state was seen as a final firewall by the “stop Trump” movement seeking to prevent him from locking in the party nomination.
But as the race was called overwhelmingly in Trump’s favor, Cruz conceded to supporters in Indianapolis that he no longer had a viable path forwards.
“We left it all on the field in Indiana,” Cruz said. “We gave it everything we’ve got, but the voters chose another path.”
“And so with a heavy heart, but with boundless optimism for the long-term future of our nation, we are suspending our campaign.”
It was a stunning denouement for the arch-conservative Texas senator who had insisted he would press on to the final day of the Republican race.
His departure leaves the low-polling Ohio Governor John Kasich as Trump’s only challenger for the nomination — making it a virtual certainty that he will go head to head in a general election matchup with the likely Democratic flagbearer Hillary Clinton.
The top echelon of the Republican establishment said as much minutes after Cruz capitulated, with Republican Party chief Reince Priebus declaring Trump the “presumptive” nominee.
“Donald Trump will be presumptive @GOP nominee, we all need to unite and focus on defeating @HillaryClinton,” Priebus said, in an extraordinary move to embrace a candidate the party establishment fought tooth and nail to stop.
Clinton meanwhile suffered an upset in Indiana as her Democratic rival Bernie Sanders mounted a come-from-behind victory, denying the former secretary of state a feather in her cap as she seeks their party’s presidential nomination.
Sanders, a self-declared democratic socialist, beat Clinton by 53.2 percent to 46.8 percent with about three quarters of precincts reporting — although Clinton remained well ahead in the overall delegate battle for the nomination.