It’s over for Ted Cruz. Well, it’s been over for Ted Cruz ever since polls closed in New York in a couple of weeks ago, but his loss in Indiana tonight to Donald Trump was the cruncher. On paper, Indiana is a state that Cruz should have dominated. It’s a very conservative state that’s outside the southern/northeastern corridors that have been strong Trump territory. It has a demographic mix that should have made it fertile territory for Cruz, what with its high percentage of evangelicals. Cruz had successfully banished John Kasich from the state, reducing the threat of the Ohio governor acting as a spoiler and finally getting something approximating the two-man race with Trump he’d been clamoring for. Even the governor, Mike Pence, had endorsed him. But Cruz still got thumped.
And he lost despite throwing pretty much everything he could into the race and at Trump. The weird Kasich deal was Hail Mary number one. The announcement that Carly Fiorina would be his running mate was Hail Mary number two. And the fusillades of invective aimed at Trump – attacking Trump’s marital infidelity and bouts with venereal disease, and saying Trump believed “grown men should be allowed to use the little girls’ restroom” – was Hail Mary number three. He tried just about everything, and none of it worked. Cruz had made the case that the Indiana primary was make or break. “Make no mistake, Indiana is absolutely pivotal,” said one fundraising email. “If Trump wins all the delegates in Indiana, his nomination could be all but determined.” Well, Trump won all the delegates, and Cruz dropped out of the race.
All that delegate wrangling Cruz engineered to try and win the nomination on a second ballot at the convention? That’s all now moot. With the last plausible Republican alternative to Trump out of the race, all the heat and light generated by the #NeverTrump movement will fade and disappear as the anti-Trump die-hards realize that their hopes now rest on electing Hillary Clinton president.
So… after all these months filled with nonsense, bigotry, and penis jokes, here we are. Barring some massive and earth-shaking exogenous shock occurring over the coming weeks, Trump will be the 2016 Republican presidential nominee. No less a person than Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said as much after Cruz dropped out. Donald Trump – this guy – is for all intents and purposes one election away from the White House.
God help us all.
On the Democratic side, things are pretty much just pageantry at this point. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are still fighting for every vote and delegate, and Sanders put up another close victory over Clinton in Indiana. It’s a little humbling for the frontrunner to still be dropping contests like this so late in the game, especially since she was leading by a comfortable margin in the polls, but at this point the mathematical reality confronting the Sanders campaign is just too daunting to overcome.
As Nate Silver wrote at FiveThirtyEight, for Sanders to capture the nomination after a narrow win in Indiana, he would have to win the remaining states by bigger-than-blowout margins – 31 points in California, 57 points in Oregon, 60 and 40 points in North and South Dakota, respectively. Well, Sanders got his narrow win in Indiana, so now he needs a political earthquake to befall Hillary Clinton. It’s the same story we’ve been hearing for months now: while close and unexpected victories are good for Sanders’ narrative and provide him incentive to carry on, they don’t solve his delegate problem, which only grows more acute as time passes. He has reasons to stay in the race and should absolutely keep going for as long as he can keep winning, but the hole he’s in is so deep that a win in Indiana didn’t do anything to help him win the Democratic nomination.