With Donald Trump’s crushing victory in the Indiana primary this week—scoring a solid majority of the vote and winning all of the state’s delegates—he is now the undisputed Republican nominee for president. With Ted Cruz ending his campaign following his loss and acid casualty John Kasich suspending his the following day, the stage is set for Trump and his supporters to take over the GOP and take back the White House.
It wasn’t supposed to end like this. Indiana had long been viewed as a pro-Cruz state due to its agrarian nature, evangelical population, and lack of diversity. After losing six primaries in a row to the Donald—indeed, finishing behind Kasich in all but one of them—Lyin’ Ted needed a win in Indiana to lend credibility to his campaign and stop Trump from getting the majority of delegates he needed to win the nomination on the first ballot.
Alas, it was not to be. Any goodwill Cruz had built up among voters was completely exhausted by the time the Hoosier State voted. Cruz’s backroom backstabbing in Colorado and Wyoming—garnering delegates in states where the voters didn’t get a say—along with his botched collusion pact with Kasich and his inexplicable decision to name Creepy Carly Fiorina as his running mate caused his poll numbers to collapse. With both his opponents out of the way, Trump is now free to take on Hillary Clinton from now until the general election in November.
A Tale Of Two Rallies
I got a firsthand view of the massive gulf between Trump’s and Cruz’s popularity among Hoosiers when I attended a rally by each candidate held in the same room of the same building: the Century Center in South Bend. (I also attended a Bernie Sanders rally in between that was also held at the Century Center.) Cruz held his rally a week ago, and despite the South Bend region supposedly being favorable to him (Michiana, the home of Notre Dame, has a highly-educated population), only about 500-600 people showed up, filling maybe a sixth of the room:
To make matters worse, Cruz had decided to completely rip off Trump’s campaign style and policy positions. Not only did we begin the rally with a prayer and by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance (something Trump has done at his rallies since the Iowa caucuses), when he was speaking, Lyin’ Ted declared he would fight to keep American companies from outsourcing manufacturing jobs, an issue Trump has built his campaign on. Cruz even name-dropped Carrier as one of the companies on his shit-list despite the fact that the Donald has been lambasting them for months:
In contrast, Trump’s South Bend rally on Monday was a full house, with 3,000-4,000 people crammed into the room and another 4,000 in overflow rooms. The content of Trump’s speeches had also changed from when I’d last seen him in New York. In both that speech and another rally I’d attended in Indianapolis the week before, the Donald relaxed his attacks on Lyin’ Ted and focused on the fact that he was the presumptive nominee:
Demolishing Cruz took a while—compared to his attacks on Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio—but Trump eventually made Lyin’ Ted crack. The Indiana campaign was a nonstop series of disasters for Cruz, from his pact with Kasich falling apart mere hours after it was announced to his running mate announcement backfiring (selecting Fiorina caused his poll numbers to decline even further). When Cruz flipped out the morning of the election and called Trump a “bully” and a “pathological liar,” it was because he knew the end was near.
Chicago ’68, Philly ’16
Bernie Sanders’ unexpected triumph in the Indiana Democratic primary—he had been trailing Hillary Clinton by a significant margin in the polls—also works to Trump’s advantage. While Clinton still leads in the delegate count, Sanders has enough support to fight to the end of the primaries and he’s signaled that he will continue his campaign all the way to the Democratic convention in Philadelphia in July.
As my own experiences at Sanders’ events show, his supporters despise Hillary, viewing her as a hopelessly corrupt, warmongering crypto-Republican. There will be no reconciliation between the Hillary and Sanders camps, setting the scene for a nasty fight at the convention. Hillary will likely get the nomination due to her support from the party’s donor class, which will lead a significant number of Sanders voters to either stay home or support Trump (and in fact, Trump has been making overtures to Sanders’ supporters for a month now).
It’s the perfect situation for Trump: not only has he vanquished his opponents in the GOP, his likely Democratic opponent will have to spend the next two months fending off attacks from her own party, softening her up for the general election. While there are no guarantees, at this stage, you wouldn’t go wrong betting on a Trump victory in November.
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