Donald Trump swept the Indiana primary on Tuesday evening, forcing Senator Ted Cruz to finally bow out of the presidential race and essentially hand the Republican nomination to Trump.
Trump led his Republican rivals with around 53 percent on of the vote according to CNN projections. The frontrunner dealt a fatal loss to Senator Ted Cruz, who banked much of his faltering campaign on defeating Trump in Indiana on Tuesday night.
"From the very beginning I said i would continue on as long as there was a viable path to victory," Cruz said, speaking to an audibly distraught crowd of supporters in Indianapolis, Indiana. "Tonight I'm sorry to say it appears that path has been foreclosed."
"We left it all on the field in Indiana," Cruz continued before ending his speech without endorsing or even mentioning Trump.
The chair of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, acknowledged that Trump was now the party's standard-bearer moments after Cruz ended his speech.
Cruz's withdrawal from the race concludes one of the most brutal days of sparring between him and Trump so far during the primary race. Cruz unleashed on the GOP frontrunner earlier on Tuesday, calling him a "narcissist," "utterly amoral" and "pathological liar." Trump responded with a statement calling Cruz "unhinged."
Trump spoke from Trump Tower in Manhattan. "It's been an unbelievable day and evening and year," he said, after Cruz announced he was dropping out. "I haven't been through anything like this but it's a beautiful thing to watch and a beautiful thing to behold."
Trump displayed a rare moment of humility in his victory speech by congratulating Cruz as "one hell of a competitor" and a "tough, smart guy [with] an amazing future." He also congratulated Cruz's family, including his wife Heidi, and his children. Trump's softer words toward Cruz, of course, come less than 12 hours after he called his rival "unhinged" and "wacko" and accused his father of being involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Trump vowed to continue campaigning in West Virginia and Nebraska, despite acknowledging himself that he has essentially locked down the nomination. He made it clear that his sights were now set on the general election: "We're going after Hillary Clinton. She will not be a great president."
Trump began Tuesday night just 281 delegates short of the total he'll need to clinch the Republican nomination and will add significantly to that lead on Tuesday night, bringing him inches away from becoming the party's standard-bearer. Trump won at least 45 of Indiana's delegates and will only need to win slightly more than half of the remaining delegates to avoid a contested convention, the only remaining path for the remaining rival, Ohio Governor John Kasich, to defeat him.
Trump's victory in Indiana reaffirmed what has looked inevitable in recent weeks: the frontrunner will be the Republican nominee and likely face off against Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, in the November general election. The polls in Indiana favored both candidates heading into Tuesday's primary and both candidates were coming off massive wins in a swath of northeastern states the previous week.
Trump was over Indiana before voting began. He spent most of Monday there assuring supporters that he already had the race in the bag and made it clear his sights are now set on the general election.
"The people of Indiana are going to put me over the top and we can focus on Hillary Clinton," Trump said on Monday evening at a campaign rally in South Bend.
No one had more riding on Indiana's primary than Cruz, who walked away with only about 37 percent of the vote. The Texas senator, along with the rest of the "stop Trump" forces, had pinned all remaining hopes on the state's primary to deny Trump enough delegates to avoid a contested convention.
Cruz had pulled out a series of increasingly desperate tricks in recent weeks, including tapping Carly Fiorina as his running mate last week, blanketing the airwaves with a deluge of anti-Trump ads, referencing the film "Hoosiers" during campaign appearances and touting his endorsement by the state's conservative governor Mike Pence. He even entered into a bungled alliance with Kasich, so that Cruz would be left alone to campaign against Trump in Indiana. (Cruz later denied the existence of the alliance, while Kasich merely backed off). But just like everything else the candidates and anti-Trump operatives have thrown at the frontrunner so far, none of those efforts did anything to slow down Trump.
California will end the Republican primary season with its vote on June 7.
John Kasich is however staying in, after netting a meager eight percent of the votes in Indiana. "Tonight's results are not going to alter Gov. Kasich's campaign plans," his campaign said in a statement, shortly after Trump was declared the winner. "Our strategy has been and continues to be one that involves winning the nomination at an open convention."
Cruz had spent months setting up a careful ground organization in California. He also nabbed the endorsement of former California Governor Pete Wilson last week. But early polls of the state's voters showed that Trump was heavily favored to scoop up most of the state's 172 delegates and win the Republican nomination there.