Ted Cruz suspended his US presidential campaign on Tuesday after a crushing defeat in Indiana’s primary, leaving the way clear for Donald Trump to become the Republican nominee.
The Texas senator was the last remaining competitor to Trump with a clear shot at the nomination.
In an inclusive victory speech in which he tried to heal some of the open wounds of the past year and begin the long and very difficult process of unifying the party, Trump had kind words for his vanquished rival.
“I don’t know if he likes me or doesn’t like me,” Trump said of his rival. “But he is one hell of a competitor. He has an amazing future.”
In the Democratic race, Bernie Sanders pulled off a shock victory, beating Hillary Clinton by 52.7% to 47.3%, with 93% reporting.
“The Clinton campaign thinks this campaign is over,” he said. “They’re wrong.”
Cruz leaves the Republican race having won 565 delegates and 11 states, including the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses in January. Despite successfully building a strong base among evangelicals and social conservatives, he was unable to expand his following and to pivot to the unpredictable Trump, who repeatedly bashed him as “Lyin’ Ted”.
In an emotional address, Cruz told a room of supporters in Indianapolis: “From the beginning I’ve said I will continue on as long as there is a viable path to victory – tonight I am sorry to say it appears that math has been foreclosed.”
As an emotional crowd shouted “no, no,” Cruz told attendees: “Together we left it out on the field. 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.”
Cruz repeatedly referenced his idol Ronald Reagan’s unsuccessful attempt to wrest the Republican nomination from Gerald Ford in 1976, ending by promising: “There is no substitute for the America we will restore as the shining city on the hill for generations to come,” a reference to Reagan’s farewell address.
he Republican party elite, which has battled over the prospect of a Trump nomination, began to rally round him. Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, declared that Trump was the “presumptive nominee” and called on supporters to unite against Hillary Clinton.
Cruz’s exit leaves John Kasich the only remaining candidate in the race against Trump. In a statement, the Ohio governor’s chief strategist, John Weaver, told the Guardian: “The senator ran on strong conservative principles and his views are part of the broad Republican party. Donald Trump’s mad hatter ramblings are outside the conservative reform movement and we will continue onward to deny him the nomination.”
Kasich did not compete in Indiana as a result of a pact with Cruz and has so far only won his home state of Ohio. In a memo sent out earlier Tuesday night, Kasich vowed to stay in “unless a candidate reaches 1,237 bound delegates before the Convention”.
Trump celebrated victory at his looming Fifth Avenue tower in New York, marking the seminal moment in which he was transformed from a maverick and implausible candidate into presumptive Republican nominee.
He delivered his victory speech from a podium poignantly positioned just in front of the escalator in his midtown Manhattan skyscraper where he had launched his unlikely bid for the White House 10 months ago.
“We are going to win, we are going to win in November. And we are going to win big,” he said.
Recognizing the shift in gear that faces the Trump campaign, he put a marker in the sand. “Now we are going after Hillary Clinton,” Trump said. “She will not be a great president, she will not be a good president, she will be a poor president.”
He indicated that he intended to go after Clinton on the issue of trade and the loss of American jobs to foreign countries. “She doesn’t understand trade and her husband signed perhaps in the history of the world the single worst trade deal, Nafta.”