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Ted Cruz Reaches End Of His Race, Clearing GOP Path For Donald Trump


It's over for Ted Cruz. The Republican candidate dropped out of the presidential race after coming in a distant second to Donald Trump in today's Indiana primary. In the Democratic race, the results in Indiana are too close to call. With half the vote in, Bernie Sanders holds a slight lead over Hillary Clinton. Clinton is already well on her way to the Democratic nomination. Ted Cruz's decision clears Donald Trump's path to the Republican nomination, and we are going to debate the fallout from that. But first, Ted Cruz spoke to supporters in Indianapolis tonight, and here's a portion of that speech.


TED CRUZ: 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...


CRUZ: It appears that path has been foreclosed.


CRUZ: Together we left it all on the field in Indiana. We gave it everything we've 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: But hear me now. I am not suspending our fight for liberty.


CRUZ: I am not suspending our fight to defend the Constitution, to defend the Judeo-Christian values that built America. Our movement will continue. And I give you my word that I will continue this fight with all of my strength and all of my ability.


CRUZ: You are extraordinary, and we will continue to fight next week and next month and next year and together, we will continue as long as God grants us the strength to fight on.


CORNISH: That's Ted Cruz exiting the presidential race tonight after losing the Indiana primary to Donald Trump. For more, we are here in studio with NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving. Welcome back, Ron.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Audie.

CORNISH: And at Trump Tower in New York City is NPR's Don Gonyea where Donald Trump is set to speak tonight. Hey there, Don.


CORNISH: Now, I know that we are still waiting for Donald Trump to come out, and I want to just get your quick reaction to Ted Cruz because he said he left it all on the field in Indiana. And I know you watched that race today, and it was pretty bitter right up until the end.

GONYEA: I think it's fair to say he left it all out on the field. And it was a slugfest to say the least. And it was probably the most vitriolic week on this long campaign that we've seen so far with the insults flying back and forth between Trump and Cruz and Cruz and Trump and back and forth. And it's the first state where they were really going head to head, you know, one on one because John Kasich had effectively ceded the state to the two of them to battle it out.

But it was a very ugly week, and Donald Trump seemed intent on humiliating Ted Cruz by beating him as badly as he did there. I think he clearly feels he succeeded in that. And Cruz, as we heard today, said he just doesn't see a path going forward. His last win was Wisconsin four weeks ago.

CORNISH: So no path going forward, but Ron Elving, for Ted Cruz, what's next? We know the term of art is a suspension of the campaign, and he still did win some delegates.

ELVING: Yes, he did. He won well over 500 delegates. The problem is that Donald Trump now has well over 1,000 delegates. And there is no way that he can overtake him, and there does not appear at this point to be a way for him to deny Donald Trump that first ballot nomination.

Now, John Kasich, the other still-active Republican candidate, has said he wants to continue. He only has a relative handful - 150-some delegates. That is not going to make him competitive in any sense, but he wants to continue. And also, some of the never-Trump people have also sent out a press release saying that they intend to continue to seek ways that perhaps Donald Trump could be denied on that first ballot.

That's important because on the second, third, fourth ballot, many of the Donald Trump assigned delegates might no longer be loyal to him. But it does not appear at this point that we're going to get to anything like that sort of a contested situation. One other thing - Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, has sent a tweet tonight saying Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee; we need to unite behind him.

CORNISH: Don, what are we expecting to hear from Donald Trump tonight? Any chance it might be conciliatory?

GONYEA: That is going to be very interesting. Again, even in tweets today, this afternoon, he was still mocking Ted Cruz even after he knew that this day was going very well for him (laughter). It's hard to imagine that he would continue that today. It would be his first opportunity to, you know, be magnanimous in victory even though he doesn't have the 1,237 yet.

Again, this effectively clears the path. So it is his first moment as the likely nominee, the will-be presumptive nominee, as Reince Priebus called him in that tweet. But you know, we've learned not to predict what Donald Trump is going to do or say (laughter) at any given moment.

CORNISH: I want to briefly turn to the Democratic race in Indiana. Still too close to call, but Bernie Sanders has a slight edge, and he did already speak at a rally in Kentucky which votes in two weeks. Here's a clip of that.


BERNIE SANDERS: When we began, people were saying, well, you know, Bernie is a nice guy; he combs his hair beautifully.


SANDERS: But nonetheless, he is a fringe candidate. Well, well, all right - well, a lot has happened in the last year.

CORNISH: Ron Elving, the last minute to you. What is ahead for Sanders?

ELVING: Bernie Sanders looks very good tonight. He is ahead by about 6 percentage points. More than half of the vote has been counted. I think it's pretty likely he's going to be able to put this one in his hamper although the Associated Press has not yet called the race. That means he battles on to a series of smaller events in some other states. West Virginia is still going to vote. We're still going to hear from Kentucky, some other states and then of course the big one in California on June 7.

And when you put all of these races together, if Bernie Sanders were to win them all, he would still not be anywhere close to overhauling Hillary Clinton's delegate total. This is obviously very frustrating to Sanders and his forces because they feel that psychologically they're winning a lot of states. They're doing pretty well. They're piling up some delegates. They feel that they should be taken more seriously.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Ron Elving. We also heard from NPR's Don Gonyea about Ted Cruz dropping out of the presidential race. Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.
Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for NPR.org.
You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.