The Indiana Republican primary on Tuesday is really a contest between Donald Trump and those campaigning to stop him, the “Never Trump” zealots. And Trump has the upper hand for now.
A defeat in this midwestern state, experts and analysts said, will break the back of the “Never Trump” movement, clearing the path for the frontrunner to secure the nomination.
In the Democratic race, which is not receiving half as much action, Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders in polls by 50% to 43.2% and is expected to extend her lead in delegates..
But Sanders, whose campaign announced countrywide layoffs recently, is not giving up, and has predicted a contested convention, hoping to deny Clinton a clear majority.
It’s the Republican race to the nomination, however, that has captivated media, experts and voters, with a growing sense of inevitability in the party — resignation — about Trump.
The real-estate mogul is leading Cruz, his main challenger for the nomination, by 15 points in Indiana, according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll published on Sunday.
In the RealClearPolitics average of polls, Trump’s lead is narrower but still outside the margin-of-error range, 41.6% to 33.8%. John Kasich is third with 17.2%.
Cruz and Kasich had joined hands to stop Trump in Indiana and the primaries in Oregon and New Mexico by getting out of the way of each, turning them into one-on-one contests.
The Republican front-runner is believed to be vulnerable in such situations, but that’s a largely an untested proposition. In polls at least, Trump continues to lead in those states.
Can Cruz and Kasich transfer their voters, to gang up on Trump? That’s another untested variable. Meanwhile, Cruz’s hold over the ground-game, to gather delegates, is wearing thin.
The New York Times reported on Monday that after a string of recent defeats, Cruz’s support among delegates is “softening, threatening his hopes of preventing Trump’s nomination”.
The Times attributed it to a larger shift taking place in the Republican party, brought on by Trump’s wins and a desire to “move on and unite behind someone” for the general election.
The “never” in the “Never Trump” movement, the Times report concluded, is beginning to look more like a “reluctantly”. There is still some way to go for “For Trump”.
The Washington Post reported “indications of trouble” for the Cruz campaign, stemming mostly from enduring misgivings about Cruz as a candidate, some of it prompted by Trump.
The report quoted a Cruz campaign volunteer who makes phone calls for the candidate as saying that most voters “are concerned with the nickname he’s been given — ‘Lyin’ Ted’.”