INDIANAPOLIS — We’re in the general election now.
Donald Trump vanquished Ted Cruz, trouncing the Texas senator in Indiana’s primary and leaving Cruz to drop out, concluding that he had no path to the Republican nomination.
All that delegate math, the fretting over whether Trump could reach 1,237 delegates? Stick a fork in it: Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus declared Trump the “presumptive GOP nominee.”
Here are five takeaways from Indiana’s history-making night:
Trump’s the nominee
Just eight months ago, Republicans were so worried that Trump would lose the GOP primary and launch an independent bid that party leaders pressured its slate of presidential candidates to sign a pledge to support the ultimate nominee.
Turns out, there was no need to worry about that.
After crushing Cruz by 16 percentage points in Indiana’s primary, Trump is now on course to easily claim the Republican presidential nomination.
The win was his most impressive yet. In a conservative, evangelical state, Trump ran a pitch-perfect campaign. He was bolstered by four legendary college coaches and a blue-collar message that was particularly effective because he began railing on the state’s Public Enemy No. 1, Carrier, the air conditioning manufacturer that’s shipping 2,100 jobs to Mexico, months before he ever needed a single Hoosier vote.
Cruz played the only hand he had, staking his fate on Indiana. But Republican voters have chosen Trump as their nominee, and Cruz’s departure Tuesday night means it happened even faster than Trump expected.
“I didn’t expect it, and what Ted did is really a brave thing to do,” Trump admitted during his victory speech in New York’s Trump Tower.
Trump enters general election mode
Now, Trump has to shift into general election mode — where Hillary Clinton and sky-high unfavorable ratings with women await him.
He started Tuesday night by attacking Clinton for her comments during a CNN town hall in March that she’d put coal companies “out of business.” She backtracked from those remarks Monday, but Trump saw an opening he could exploit with West Virginia’s contest coming up.
“I watched her talking about the miners as if they were just numbers,” Trump said.
He also attacked Clinton more broadly, saying that “she will be a poor president. She doesn’t understand trade.”
Expect Trump to hammer Clinton every day until November for her husband’s decision to sign the North American Free Trade Agreement into law — as if Republicans haven’t been the party that staunchly supports free trade deals like NAFTA.
Meanwhile, every GOP lawmaker and down-ballot candidate has a choice to make: Are you a Trump Republican or not? Already, Democrats have launched attack ads in Arizona and Arkansas tying their Republican foes to Trump. That’ll quickly extend to every competitive race on the map.
There’s one Republican not ready to board the Trump Train: Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who objected to Priebus declaring Trump the presumptive GOP nominee.
Cruz hit the wall — hard
The Texas senator tried every trick in the book — and they all failed.
He struck a deal to keep John Kasich from campaigning in Indiana, but failed to court the Ohio governor’s fiscal-focused moderate supporters. He chose Carly Fiorina as his vice presidential nominee, but the move looked desperate. He locked down Gov. Mike Pence’s endorsement, only to see Pence heap praise on Trump before getting around to saying he’d vote for Cruz. He tried to recapture the Hollywood magic of “Hoosiers,” but Trump campaigned with a real Hoosier basketball legend, former coach Bobby Knight.
And finally, on Tuesday, when it was too late, Cruz got mad, denouncing Trump as a “pathological liar,” “narcissist” and “serial philanderer.”
In the state Cruz hyped as “more favorable terrain” a week ago — the state he told voters he had to have — he was thoroughly crushed.
Trump’s big win forced Cruz to admit that his own path to the nomination “has been foreclosed.”
Rather than dragging things out, Cruz ended it, telling supporters in Indianapolis that “we left it all on the field in Indiana. We gave it everything we got, but the voters chose another path.”
Does #NeverTrump really mean never Trump?
If Indiana didn’t break the back of the Republican resistance to Trump, it certainly left many of his opponents giving up — or at least easing up.
Mark Meckler, a tea party leader, said that “no matter your personal preference, Trump’s win in Indiana indicates a likely GOP nomination.”
“The tea party has been split evenly between Cruz and Trump up to this point, but if Trump wins the nomination, I expect most Cruz voters will support Trump,” Meckler said. “Most grass-roots folks I talk to have no appetite for an ugly convention fight.”
Katie Packer, the chair of the anti-Trump Our Principles PAC, said her group “will continue to educate voters about Trump until he, or another candidate, wins the support of a majority of delegates to the convention.”
Notably missing from her super PAC’s efforts: Ad buys in upcoming states.
Don’t count out every member of the #NeverTrump crowd. Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, a fierce Trump critic, tweeted on Tuesday night: “Reporters keep asking if Indiana changes anything for me. The answer is simple: No.”
And Mark Salter, the long-time John McCain friend and aide, said he’d back Clinton over Trump in November.
Clinton still can’t put Sanders away
If Bernie Sanders’ goal is to carry as much influence as possible into the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia — and give his supporters a reason to fight on through California on June 7 — his win was helpful.
But in terms of the delegate math, it was all but irrelevant.
In the Democratic race, delegates are awarded proportionally. What that means: Narrow wins don’t help Sanders close his massive gap with Hillary Clinton.
But a narrow win is exactly what the Vermont senator got on Tuesday — giving him a morale boost after losing five of six East Coast primaries.
Yet the result shows Clinton is still struggling to win white voters. And it could help Sanders regain the fundraising steam he had through February and March, after his online, small-dollar operation slowed in April.