(CN) – Donald Trump scored a resounding victory in Indiana’s Republican presidential primary on Tuesday, handily defeating Sen. Ted Cruz and driving the Texan from the race for the nomination.
“We gave it everything we’ve got, but the voters chose another path,” Cruz said as he addressed supporters shortly before 9 p.m.
“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.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the also-ran in Indiana and for much of the primary season, responded to Cruz’s announcement by saying he will stay in the race until a candidate has the 1,237 delegates necessary to secure the nomination on the first ballot.
As Cruz left the stage of the Indianapolis ballroom at which he spoke, GOP chairman Reince Priebus took to Twitter saying that Trump “will be presumptive @GOP nominee, we need to unite and focus on defeating @HillaryClinton.”
With that, the drama of Tuesday night shifted to the Democratic primary, where the outcome remained very much in doubt for over two hours..
Shortly after Cruz spoke, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont was declared the winner in his contest against Hillary Clinton, garnering 53 percent of the vote to her 47 percent.
That the outcome of the Democratic race would be so uncertain Tuesday night was completely unexpected after Trump and Cruz dominated the political news cycle and the Democrats largely yielded the field to their pyrotechnics.
Cruz had drawn a line in the sand in Indiana, even entering into a deal with Kasich to guarantee he could take Trump on mano a mano. The result, however, was likely far more pugilistic and bizarre than either candidate dared imagine.
Early Tuesday morning, Trump appeared on television and repeated claims first made by the National Enquirer, that the senator’s father, Rafael Cruz, had appeared in a 1963 photograph with John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.
“His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald’s being, you know, shot,” Trump said on “Fox & Friends.”
Cruz responded angrily, sarcastically saying Trump was right, and adding that his father was also “Elvis, and has Jimmy Hoffa buried in his backyard.”
Later, in a calmer moment, Cruz said his father is a “hero.”
As for Trump, Cruz dismissed him as “amoral” and a “braggadocious, arrogant buffoon.”
With that, Cruz continued to race across the state in search of every possible vote, while Trump retired to Trump Tower in New York to await the primary results.
In Evansville, Indiana, Cruz told a large crowd that he did not believe America is “proud, boastful, self-centered, mean-spirited, hateful, bullying nation.”
Appearing with his wife Heidi and running mate Carly Fiorina by his side, Cruz warned that “If Indiana does not act” to stop Trump “this country could well plunge into the abyss.”
It may well be when the history of the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination is written, Indiana will be seen as the defining contest. Since last week, when he was trounced by Trump in five Northeastern states, Cruz has focused on Indiana as if it were the nomination itself.
He campaigned in every corner of the state, took the unheard of step of announcing his choice for vice president, and secured the endorsement of the state’s governor.
And he found an eager audience, at least among some voters.
One of those who said she planned to vote for Cruz on Tuesday was Renee Kartholl.
“I like his personality and his values. I hope he goes further than we think today. He’s a fighter and he’s still hanging in there,” she said.
But Trump, determined to put his loudest critic away, also campaigned hard in Indiana even staying overnight at a Holiday Inn Express.
The battle was so loud and so constantly in everyone’s face, that it was easy to forget that there actually was a Democratic contest to be decided.
Democratic Presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont also campaigned in Indiana, but raised nowhere near as big a ruckus as the Republicans.
Sanders was behind in the polls headed into election day, but he remained hopeful Tuesday given that Indian has an open primary system that allows independents his core constituency to register as Democrats up virtually to the last minute and vote in the contest.
“I feel like he has been consistent, since his young 20s, in fighting racism, sexism and discrimination,” said Brooke Wright, 25, of Fort Wayne, in explaining why she voted for Sen. Sanders.
“He has always stood up for all walks of life, and hasn’t changed his view depending on what kind of population he’s standing in front of. Regardless of whether or not he becomes the president, he will make a big impact on our generation,” Wright said.
Kelly Lynch, 30, and also a Sanders voter, said she embraced him because of his “authenticity, consistency of message and because he’s the underdog.
“I hope some of his momentum bleeds into whomever gets the nomination. It’s hard to ignore the passion behind his message,” Lynch said.
Neither Clinton nor Sanders planned to be in Indiana when the votes were counted. Instead, Sanders was holding rallies in Kentucky, which will hold its primary in mid-May, while Clinton announced she would be in southern Ohio, a state that will be critical to winning the general election.
Speaking in Ohio, Clinton largely ignored Sanders and instead lambasted Trump, who, she said, hasn’t offered a single plan to deal with the big issues facing the country.
She also declared she ready to take on all the Republican frontrunner has to throw at her.
“People ask me all the time, how are you going to respond to all these attacks, all these names that you’re called. I say really? It’s not like I haven’t been dealing with that for 25 years,” Clinton said.
Sanders was addressing voters in Louisville, Kentucky, as polls closed Tuesday. Earlier in the day he filed a federal lawsuit in Indiana asking that polling places in Marion County remain open for an additional hour after early morning problems caused the polls there to open late.
A Courthouse News reporter on the scene found that “child care issues” had been blamed for the delay in opening the only polling location in Marion County. Otherwise voting around the state was considered to going smoothly.
Courthouse News reporter Chris Randolph in Fort Wayne and David Wells in Indianapolis contributed to this report. The Associated Press also contributed to this report.
Photo of Bernie Sanders by Kristen Wells.
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