WASHINGTON - Mr Donald Trump effectively became the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party on Tuesday (May 3) as his only viable competitor, Senator Ted Cruz, suspended his campaign after losing the Indiana primary to the billionaire businessman.
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 tycoon promised: “We’re going to win in November, and we’re going to win big, and it’s going to be America first.”
Mr Trump has to win the 1,237 delegates required to secure the nomination but with only Ohio governor and long-shot contender John Kasich left in the race, that now appears a foregone conclusion.
The primary in Indiana on Tuesday was billed by many as a do-or-die contest for Mr Cruz and indeed it turned out to be. Mr Cruz had tried every trick in the book to try and win the state. He made the unprecedented move of picking a vice presidential running mate and formed an awkward alliance with Mr Kasich where the governor agreed to not campaign in Indiana.
But all of it failed to make the desired impact on Republican voters in the state. News outlets declared victory in Indiana for Mr Trump the very moment polls closed. With about 40 per cent of the vote left to count, Mr Trump held a 52 - 37 per cent lead over Mr Cruz in the state and was on course to sweep all 57 delegates on offer.
At his concession speech in Indianapolis, Mr Cruz did not congratulate his rival nor pledged to support the party, preferring to simply talk through his decision and thank his supporters.
“From the beginning, I’ve said that I would continue on as long as there was a viable path to victory. Tonight, I’m sorry to say, it appears that path has been foreclosed,” he said as supporters – fearing what was to come – interjected with yells of “no”.
“Together, we left it all on the field in Indiana. We gave it everything we 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.”
Mr Cruz hugged his wife and his parents at the end of his speech, with many on stage and in the crowd in tears.
The announcement was another twist in what has already been an unpredictable election season. For months, Mr Cruz appeared to be on course to challenge all the way to the nominating convention. The senator had the most organized ground campaign of any of the 17 candidates that ran for the nomination and he had spent much of the last month securing the commitments of delegates at the convention.
His strategy was to force a contested convention – one where no candidate secures an outright majority at the first vote at the convention – and then get delegates to switch sides during subsequent rounds of voting. With his exit, it is now unlikely that there will be a contested convention.
The question, pundits say, is now whether the party can somehow rally around Mr Trump after such a bitter and divisive contest.
On the Democratic Party side, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton remains the likely nominee, even if she were to lose Indiana to Senator Bernie Sanders. The race is currently too close to call in the state.
As the party allocates delegates proportionally and she holds a significant lead in the delegate count, the Indiana race will not be able to significantly alter the direction of the contest.
Donald Trump crushed his Republican rivals Tuesday (May 3) in Indiana, US networks projected, bringing him dramatically closer to outright victory in his party’s presidential nomination race and dashing the hopes of a movement bent on stopping him.
Closest rival Ted Cruz said he was "suspending" his campaign as he thanked supporters in Indianapolis for their support.