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It's Trump

Ted Cruz suspends his campaign after losing Indiana, all but assuring the front-runner of the Republican nomination.

Aaron Bernstein / Reuters

“Republican nominee Donald Trump.”

That phrase, once the stuff of fantasy, is now all but set in stone. The entertainer scored a huge victory on Tuesday in Indiana, as Senator Ted Cruz of Texas announced that he was ending his bid for president after being routed in the Hoosier State.

Trump will be the first major-party nominee without prior experience in elected office since General Dwight Eisenhower in 1952. With most of the vote in, Trump was on course to win around a large majority of the state’s 57 delegates. Those numbers, the subject of obsessive calculation and analysis over the last month, have now become somewhat academic. With Cruz out of the race, Trump is effectively assured of winning a majority of the delegates ahead of the July Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

“I’ve said I would continue as long as there was a viable path to victory. Tonight, I’m sorry to say, it appears that path has been foreclosed,” Cruz said from a stage in Indianapolis, flanked by his wife and daughters, both of his parents, and his running mate of just a few days, Carly Fiorina. “We gave it everything we got, but the voters chose another path. And so with a heavy heart but without boundless optimism for the long-term future of our nation, we are suspending our campaign.”

Cruz did not mention Trump during his brief remarks, either to congratulate the presumptive nominee or to pledge him his support. Throughout the campaign, Cruz had repeatedly refused to say he would not support Trump, but on Tuesday, he lashed out at his rival, calling him a “pathological liar” after Trump claimed Cruz’s father was involved in the JFK assassination.

Trump’s win set off an immediate spree of despair, garment-rending, and tooth-gnashing among Republican elites and conservative journalists. His success has come at the expense of not only the party establishment but also many of the conservative insurgents who sought to remake the GOP under a more conservative banner. Instead, the likely winner of the party’s nomination is a political newcomer who has backed liberal causes in the past, embraces foreign autocrats like Vladimir Putin, and rejects basic party orthodoxy on matters such as free trade. His nomination seems likely to set back by decades the party’s efforts to win over younger voters and minorities, and to cause the Republican coalition to shed women voters, too.

Even if these predictions prove too dire, the mood on the right on Tuesday was extremely bleak. Leading conservative pollsters and opinion makers proclaimed Hillary Clinton the winner of the 2016 election, declared that they’d back the Democrat over Trump, and in one case even forecast the end of the republic. Some tossed around terms like “Armageddon.” In any case, it is a stunning denouement to a primary campaign season that began with one of the most heralded classes of policy-focused Republican candidates in generations, and ends with the nomination of an outsider uninterested in policy and hated by the party establishment. It’s nearly impossible to overstate what an accomplishment Trump’s success is, and how unlikely it seemed when he entered the race last summer. (It didn’t even seem likely at the time that he’d run.)

“It’s been some unbelievable day and evening and year, and I never have been through anything like this,” Trump said from Trump Tower in New York Tuesday night. “We’re gonna make America great again.”

Though his speech was typically rambling and extemporized—not a grand victory statement—Trump signaled his change of focus to running against the presumptive Democratic nominee.

“We’re going after Hillary Clinton. She will not be a great president, she will not be a good president, she will be a poor president,”  he said. “This country which has become divided in so many ways is going to become one beautiful loving country.”

As the Republican nominee, Trump will head into the general election with a roughly 70 percent unfavorable rating among women, a record of alienating minorities, and the opposition of large segments of the party he aspires to represent. But Trump has repeatedly surprised throughout the campaign. His supporters argue that the real-estate developer, though divisive, represents an unprecedented brand of politician who will realign the American political landscape, cutting across party lines and bringing in new voters. In Hillary Clinton, he will also likely face one of the weakest candidates in memory, with one of the highest unfavorable ratings in history. The only candidate with worse numbers? That would be Donald J. Trump.

Despite Cruz barnstorming hard across Indiana and pouring resources into his campaign there, Trump won the majority of the delegates at stake, picking up 30 awarded to the leader and most of the remaining 27 allocated by congressional district. That total puts him at roughly 1,000 delegates—still 237 away from what he needs to win, but a total that should be well within reach if his recent pattern holds in coming states. He also boasts roughly 45 delegates who are not bound to support him and could switch. Ohio Governor John Kasich, who finished a distant third Tuesday, vowed to stay in the race, a promise met mostly with shrugs. With only Kasich contesting the remaining contests, Trump should have no trouble reaching 1,237.

Cruz’s back was to the wall after Trump routed him and Kasich in the northeastern primaries a week ago. But Indiana, with a large population of conservative evangelicals, seemed like the kind of state where the Texan could fare well. Cruz pulled out two major stops, too. First, he struck a deal with Kasich to split up the rest of the map in the hopes of stopping Trump. As part of that agreement, Kasich would abandon the Hoosier State to Cruz. But the agreement splintered nearly as soon as it was struck, and Kasich still campaigned (lightly) in the state.

Then came Cruz’s second trick: He announced that he was selecting Carly Fiorina as his running mate. The move earned him some derision—Why was he selecting a running mate for a nomination he most likely would lose? Did he even have the authority to do so?—but it was a decent ploy to win some media attention, perhaps capture a few more voters, and even better to lure Trump into making one of this trademark misogynistic comments about Fiorina.

None of that worked out. Trump wasn’t baited into lashing out. Fiorina’s addition didn’t give Cruz much of a bump in the polls. Trump collected endorsements from Indiana sports legends, including former Indiana University basketball coach Bobby Knight, former Purdue coach Gene Keady, and Gary native Fred “the Hammer” Williamson. Meanwhile, the evangelicals never did come through for Cruz—just as they let him down around the country before. According to exit polls, Trump won the Indiana evangelical vote by five points.

On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton in Indiana, outperforming polls that had shown her ahead. The result won’t make much difference to the result of the race. As she has been since at least last week’s northeastern primaries, Hillary Clinton remains the presumptive nominee on the Democratic side, though she still needs to pick up more delegates to clinch her party’s nomination. After winning only Rhode Island last week, the Sanders campaign had already begun to contract, laying off workers, streamlining its operation, and moving away from rhetoric devoted to beating Clinton and toward trying to influence the direction of the Democratic Party.

Cruz’s exit caps a precipitous rise in national politics. Only elected to the Senate in 2012, Cruz quickly became a national star, but he did so by alienating most of his party—launching suicide operations to shut down the government and “filibuster” funding for Obamacare, ploys that won him grassroots appeal but infuriated colleagues who felt he was endangering the party. From there, he leapt into the presidential race, where he cut a clever path: first, grasping onto Trump’s mantle, then systematically stealing enough ground from candidates like Marco Rubio and Rand Paul to become Trump’s only remaining serious rival. But Cruz was unable to eclipse Trump, hobbled by the loathing of many in his own party and overwhelmed by the Trump fervor he’d helped to feed earlier in the campaign. To many leading Republicans, even those who dislike Trump, Cruz’s demise was poetic justice—an outsider bomb-thrower brought down by a bomb-throwers from even further outside.

It’s unclear what Cruz’s path forward in politics now. He has two years remaining on his term in the Senate, and though his colleagues may dislike him, a Republican seat in Texas should remain safe for as long as he wants it. The recent acrimony between Cruz and Trump may close off any chance of a role in a Trump campaign or administration, though worse disagreements between former rivals have been reconciled. Cruz might also try to run for president again in 2020 if Trump loses the general election. Tuesday night, he swore to keep standing up for his views.

“Hear me now: I am not suspending our fight for liberty. I am not suspending our fight to defend the Constitution, to defend the Judeo-Christian values that built America,” Cruz said. “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.”

Trump, with the easy grace of a victor, praised the Texan. “Ted Cruz, I don’t know if he likes me or doesn’t like, but he is one hell of a competitor,” he said. “He is a tough, smart guy. He has got an amazing future. I want to congratulate Ted.”

To get a sense of why Cruz lost in Indiana Tuesday, and why he might not have better luck even if an contested convention was in the offing, look at a new Gallup poll finding that Cruz’s favorability among Republicans has tanked in the last two weeks. The same poll shows Trump’s favorability on the rise.

The election might not be formally decided until June 7, the date of the last Republican nominating contests, when California, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Montana vote. Trump should win New Jersey, and is leading polls in California by more than 25 points. Former Golden State Governor Pete Wilson, a man who knows something about how hardline immigration stances can destroy a party, had warned fellow Republicans against selecting Trump, saying it would destroy the GOP in down ballot races and lead to erratic government.

But on Tuesday, Republican voters in Indiana disregarded that advice, and ratified the decision Republican voters in most of the rest of the United States have made too. Now the nation will see whether Wilson’s predictions of down-ballot doom come to fruition—and whether the voters hand him the keys to the White House to test just how erratic a Trump administration could be.

David Graham

Updates

This live blog has concluded

Cruz's only allusion to Trump appeared to be his mention of the 1976 contested Republican convention, recounting a speech by Ronald Reagan. "He saw not the close horizons, which are of interest to those who seek to build their own fortunes in the short term," he said. "Ronald Reagan spoke of the purpose that defined our party then and must unite and drive our party now." Quite lofty—and it came only a few hours after he called the New York billionaire "a pathological liar" and "a serial philanderer." It appears an unsettled question whether he'll end up supporting the man who is now the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party.

Ted Cruz is suspending his campaign. Cruz, surrounded by his wife, two children, and his parents: "Thank you to each of you, incredible patriots, who've fought to save our nation. .. I am so grateful to you. ... What you have done, the movement you have started, is extraordinary. I love each and every one of you. From the beginning I've said 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. Together, we left it all on the field in Indiana ... but the voters chose another path."

Bernie Sanders just wrapped his speech in Kentucky. The race still hasn't been called yet for the Democrats but Sanders continues to hold a slight lead. Sanders has 52 percent of the vote while Clinton has 47 percent with 43 percent of the results in. Setting the rivalry aside, though, one thing the Democratic rivals can agree on is how much they want to see Trump's momentum halted. Sanders denounced the GOP front-runner tonight and promised he won't win the White House. "I know that all over this country there is a fear that Donald Trump will be elected president of the United States," Sanders said. "I am here to tell you that won't happen."

Clare mentioned Our Principles PAC earlier, one of the leading players in the #NeverTrump movement. It’s worth noting that Our Principles has already made a large ad play against Trump in California, according to the Political TV Ad Archive. Though the project is only tracking the San Francisco market as of now, their records show more than 600 anti-Trump ads have already aired. Both the Kasich and Cruz campaigns have also aired hit ads there; Trump has run more than 100 commercials of his own.

Of course—and this question will be asked of every #NeverTrump move from here on out—what’s the point? Trump currently leads by more than 20 percentage points in California.

Representative Todd Young won the Indiana Republican Senate primary, The Washington Post reports. With a little over 25 percent of the vote in, Young comes in at 63.2 percent compared to his rival, Representative Marlin Stutzman at 36.8 percent. Young will now come against former Democratic Representative Baron Hill in November for the seat of retiring Senator Dan Coats.  

The results are a blow to Stutzman, the self-proclaimed outsider. He now joins the ranks of other outsider candidates who ran in their state’s primaries. In North Carolina and Illinois, establishment candidates also delivered upsets to outsider candidates. Today’s loss further cements the notion that the enthusiasm that has been seen in the presidential primary has not been replicated in down-ballot elections.

There are two ways to read Bernie Sanders’s performance in tonight’s Indiana primary. The first, and most obvious, is that it ratifies the futility of his campaign. He’s roughly splitting the state with Clinton in the early returns, and with the proportional allocation of delegates, a narrow win is no better than a narrow loss—neither can help him eliminate Clinton’s lead in pledged delegates. Her nomination appears all but assured.

But that’s the other way to read the results. Democratic primary voters in the Hoosier State, asked to rally behind their party’s all-but-certain nominee, appear as divided in Indiana as they remain nationally. RealClear’s polling average puts Clinton at 50, Sanders at 45. Even if Sanders pulls ahead of Clinton in national polls, though, that’s not going to block her nomination. But it’s a clear signal of the deep divide within the Democratic Party.

The polls right now suggest that, however conflicted the Democrats may be, they’ll close ranks in the fall to defeat likely Republican nominee Donald Trump. But the fissure that Sanders has exposed isn't going way. It’s a generational divide within the party. Clinton may have locked up a victory this year. But her supporters are older; it’s Sanders’s backers who would appear to represent the party’s future. And the fact that they’re willing to fight on, even without any clear prospect of victory, says a lot about the direction in which the party is headed.

Bernie Sanders is speaking in Kentucky as results for the Indiana Democratic contest roll in. It's a nail-biter right now, and the crowd at his speech sounds like it's getting excited as it hopes for victory. CNN currently shows Sanders with 51 percent of the vote to Clinton's 48 percent with 33 percent of the vote in. A few minutes ago the crowd started to cheer, leading Sanders to pause, then say: "I think we don't know, well let's hold off, not for sure."

So far, Sanders has kept up his criticism of Clinton, bringing up her Wall Street speeches and the fact that super PACs are supporting her candidacy.

He has also spent a considerable amount of time talking about the past and the future, laying out a justification for his continued presence in the race. “A lot has happened in the last year,” Sanders said reminding the crowd how far his campaign has come, before running through a checklist of his achievements. He also took care to emphasize how well he has done with younger voters, pitching his campaign as a vision of the Democratic party’s future. “The ideas that we are fighting for are the ideas of the future of America and the future of the Democratic party,” Sanders said.

Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was just chatting with reporters at Trump Tower about the usual stuff: The long-time front-runner is now the nominee, and everyone else better drop out and/or get on board. But he indicated the Trump campaign is behind Cruz's operation in at least one regard: choosing a vice-presidential candidate. Cruz announced that he picked Carly Fiorina in a press conference last week.

Late last month, a bipartisan group of campaign operatives released a report on the VP selection process that argued campaigns must start vetting candidates ASAP. Anita Dunn, who worked on the 2008 Obama campaign, told me it was "a little late" for campaigns to get started in late April. Perhaps, with this latest primary win in the bag, the Trump campaign will begin the vetting process—even if, as my colleague Russell has reported, it might not have control over the eventual VP nominee.

Did Ted Cruz lose Indiana (and likely the GOP nomination) to Trump because, in a desperate 11th-hour frenzy, he attacked the celebrity billionaire and the celebrity billionaire’s supporters? Or did he lose because he waited too long?

I think it’s the latter. I think Cruz is the latest manifestation of the fecklessness of the so-called political elite, which was slow to take Trump seriously and, once engaged, was afraid to attack him as personally as he attacked his presidential rivals, party leaders, the media, and anybody who refused to affirm his wonderfulness.

Don’t expect Team Clinton to make the same mistake.

Indiana counties are dead even so far in the Democratic race, which is not so great for Bernie Sanders. Among the Central Time counties that has not yet started tallying votes is Lake County. The city of Gary is in Lake County, and it is almost 85 percent black, a demographic that has heavily favored Hillary Clinton so far. Gary is part of the Chicago metropolitan area, and black voters in Chicago and Cook County, Illinois broke heavily in Clinton's favor during the Illinois primary, a push that helped her eke out a victory there. Similar returns for Lake County, the second-most populous county in Indiana, might give Clinton an easy victory.

What happens to the effort to Stop Trump now that he just won the Indiana Republican primary, with networks calling the race almost immediately after polls closed? Despite bleak circumstances, opponents of the Republican front-runner are vowing to fight on. Katie Packer of the anti-Trump group Our Principles PAC said the group will “continue to educate voters about Trump until he, or another candidate, wins the support of a majority of delegates to the Convention” in a statement. Packer expressed hope that perhaps Trump will do something to take himself out of the running. “There is  more than a month before the California primary--more time for Trump to continue to disqualify himself in the eyes of voters, as he did yet again today spreading absurd tabloid lies about Ted Cruz's father and the JFK assassination,” the statement said. If nothing Trump has said or done so far has managed to sink him yet, though, it’s hard to imagine he has something still up his sleeve that will.

At Trump headquarters, they’re popping metaphorical champagne right now. (Trump himself is a teetotaler.) Many Republicans are cracking open something a little stiffer, and they’re tweeting. With Trump’s win in Indiana, and the new conventional wisdom that he will be the GOP nominee, there are some bleak opinions on conservative Twitter. For example, here’s pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson:

Former Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro:

Some conservative journalists are ready to concede the presidency to Hillary Clinton. Here’s right-wing tastemaker Erick Erickson:

And more simply, National Review’s Charles Cooke:

But that’s not the bleakest view out there. For that, look to columnist Philip Klein:

Remember John Kasich? He is still running for the Republican nomination, and he plans to continue running despite adding another loss in Indiana to a campaign that has won only his home state of Ohio. “Tonight's results are not going to alter Gov. Kasich's campaign plans,” chief strategist John Weaver wrote in a memo to reporters after the polls closed. “Gov. Kasich will remain in the race unless a candidate reaches 1,237 bound delegates before the convention.” The Ohio governor has been banking on an open convention for a while now, but Weaver's message was at least an acknowledgment that he may not get one.

Another immediate question: What does Donald Trump say in the throes of victory tonight? Just earlier today he repeated a bonkers National Enquirer story to slam Cruz, just the latest low-brow hit. The "other Trump"—more presidential, more serious—we were supposed to see never really showed up. Will he kick Ted Cruz while he's down, like he did today, or will we see that behind-the-scenes Trump, the one his chief strategist says is hidden behind the bravado, actually unleashed?

The immediate question for Ted Cruz as he prepares to speak tonight is what rationale does he lay out for continuing his candidacy? He has been clear that he needs to win Indiana to have a chance, and the math is the math. Assuming he doesn't drop out tonight, who does he appeal to? The remaining delegates? The Republican National Committee? Voters in California? If he can't defeat Trump in Indiana, it's hard to see him delivering the landslide he would need to catch up to Trump, especially given Trump's growing lead in the polls.

CNN projected a win for Trump with just 9 percent of the vote in. He's at 54 percent, with Cruz trailing at 38 percent. Kasich, who's been quiet today, has roughly 10 percent.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Trump’s message has resonated with Republican primary voters in Indiana. It’s a state with a long history of anti-immigrant sentiment. A century ago, it held the largest state-level organization of the Ku Klux Klan, enrolling at least 20 percent—and during its brief peak, perhaps as much as 40 percent—of the native-born adult white men in the state. It found its greatest strength in a band of counties stretching across the northern and central parts of Indiana.

The first Ku Klux Klan was a violent insurgency during Reconstruction, but the second Klan was largely a nativist group, with a strong resonance among white Protestants. As Kelly J. Baker put it, “The Klan was facing a crisis because the culture was changing around them, and nativism was their reaction.” And there are strong echoes between its message of 100 percent Americanism, and Trump’s rhetoric on the trail this year.

That’s not to say that that most Trump voters today would embrace the message of the second Klan. The Klan was, for example, virulently anti-Catholic; today, GOP Catholic voters are as likely to back Trump as Cruz. The Klan threw itself into civic activities; Indianans were also disproportionately active in other fraternal movements of the era. Most Trump supporters, by contrast, seldom or never attend civic meetings.

But there is at least one point of consistency, which suggests that some of the sentiments Trump has tapped are not novel to the American political scene. National polls have consistently shown a correlation between anxiety about cultural change, and support for Trump. An April PRRI / The Atlantic poll asked voters whether it bothered them to come into contact with immigrants who speak little or no English. Fully 64 percent of Donald Trump supporters said it did; only 46 percent of Ted Cruz supporters said the same. The culture is still changing around them; nativism is still their reaction.

As goes Vigo County, Indiana, so goes the nation.

The county, whose seat is Terre Haute, has voted for the general-election winner in every contest but two since 1888. The county, affectionately known as the Crossroads of America, boasts just over 100,000 voters, and this year the voters seem to be going for Donald Trump on the Republican side. FiveThirtyEight's David Wasserman has more details on why Vigo County may be so reliable, though he notes it hasn't been so accurate when it comes to primary contests:

There’s a reason Terre Haute is such a good national general-election bellwether: it’s a mix of lots of different kinds of communities. It’s got a substantial minority population (10 percent African-American), and it’s home to a large public university—Indiana State—as well as a federal correctional institution and plenty of working-class whites. However, Vigo has a mixed primary track record; it has voted with the last two GOP winners but voted for Clinton over Obama in 2008.

MSNBC's report conveys a little more doubt, suggesting that no one really knows why the county gets it right. But Evan Bayh, the former Democratic senator, has a theory. From Politico:

“It’s classic middle America. Small businesses. Family farms. Community schools. We care more about common sense results than we do about party labels and ideology. … You don’t get the excesses of New York or California. We keep it between the 40-yard-lines.”

Ted Cruz has really devoted himself to Indiana. He’s spent the past few weeks glad-handing locals and holding rallies. He scored the endorsement of the state’s governor, Mike Pence. And last week, Cruz held a rally in Knightstown in the gym where the 1986 movie Hoosiers was filmed—a sports movie where underdogs emerge victorious. The rally was dripping with symbolism and basketball references. Lots of basketball references.

Cruz hoped to win the Hoosier state Wisconsin-style. He was really banking on white Evangelical voters to see through Trump’s bluster and come to his rescue. The problem is, Indiana is a weird state. As FiveThirtyEight reported last week, Indiana does have a lot of white Evangelicals, as well as people who identify as very conservative, demographics with whom Cruz has typically done well. Based on ABC’s preliminary exit poll data, evangelicals make up more than half of GOP primary voters, but weekly churchgoers only accounted for about four in 10.

To add insult to injury, according to the exit polls, almost half of Indiana GOP primary voters made up their minds more than a month ago, meaning a lot of Cruz’s time and energy spent in the state could have been for naught. As Andrew wrote earlier this week, Trump has typically done well with early-deciders, and there were simply not enough people left in Indiana for Cruz to convince.

But the winner has yet to be called, and Cruz is probably taking comfort in Coach Norman Dale’s locker room speech from Hoosiers: “Don’t get caught up thinking about winning or losing this game. If you put your effort and concentration into playing to your potential, to be the best you can be, I don’t care what the scoreboard says at the end of the game, in my book we’re gonna be winners.”

As Andrew noted, the demographics from the exit polls detail exactly the kind of state that Sanders is known for winning: high numbers of white voters and strong liberal voters. Also, voters believe him the more inspiring candidate and most rate honesty as the highest attribute in a candidate, two metrics that have proven good indicators of Sanders's success so far.

Those polling details show why tonight could be so devastating for the Sanders campaign. While the Sanders's campaign seems likely to fight to the convention against all odds to at least give all of his supporters a chance to vote, even some of that idealistic resolve could fade tonight. If Clinton does win, despite facing unfavorable demographics and not spending much money or time in the state, it could be a signal that even the famed underdog enthusiasm for Sanders is fading. With fundraising decreasing, could Sanders really keep up the fight as more and more eyes turn towards the general election?

Ted Cruz can no longer win the nomination outright; his only choice to force a contested convention and win in a floor fight. Keeping Indiana's 57 pledged delegates away from Trump is essential to this strategy. But even if he carries the state, it appears many of his own voters in Indiana would cry foul if he won the nomination through delegate maneuvers: ABC's early exit poll results show only the slimmest majority of his and Kasich's voters believe the delegates should decide the nominee, a drop from previous contests. Indiana voters are also more likely than average to want an "outsider" candidate, buoying Trump.

Clinton led in previous Indiana polling, but the exits in Indiana look to give Sanders a fighting chance. More than 70 percent of Democratic voters so far are white, and nearly half are under the age of 45. ABC also notes that Indiana has seen unusually high turnout among voters who describe themselves as "strong liberals." Sanders is also viewed as the more inspiring candidate. But eight in 10 voters say Clinton's ideas are more realistic, compared to just six in 10 for the Vermont senator.

Earlier today, I argued that even many Republicans who are vehemently against Donald Trump have sent signals and cues to voters that helped fuel his rise. One section of my piece focused on Ted Cruz, who spent months cozying up to Trump, praising his character, and trying to discredit his critics. Cruz always knew better, I insisted, and while the evidence for that proposition has long been overwhelming, today Cruz made it explicit, as David noted earlier. “Morality does not exist for him,” Cruz added. “Donald is a bully. Every one of us knew bullies in elementary school … Donald will betray his supporters on every issue.” As Peter Suderman points out, “Cruz’s statement is an open admission that he’s been misleading voters throughout the campaign.”

It’s not just that he’s been holding back. It’s that, presuming today’s statement really does represent what he believes, his previous statements cannot be true. I hope Cruz wins, because everything he says about Trump is true, but Cruz’s opportunistic duplicity does undercut the strength of his attack on his opponent’s duplicitous opportunism.

As Trump looks like he'll emerge as the victor in Indiana, another outsider in the state is struggling to gain momentum. Republican Representatives Marlin Stutzman and Todd Young are going head-to-head for the seat of retiring Senator Dan Coats. A NBC / Wall Street Journal / Marist poll shows Young leading, with 56 percent of likely Republican primary voters backing him, compared to Stutzman’s 24 percent. The establishment has backed Young ahead of the state’s primary, including a super PAC associated with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Stutzman, who’s billed himself the outsider candidate, has garnered the support of several Tea Party groups.

As I wrote earlier today, Stutzman, also a member of the House Freedom Caucus, hopes to get votes from Donald Trump and Ted Cruz supporters. “First thing I do is tell him that Mitch McConnell is with Todd Young, “ he said. “Usually that does it.” But thus far, Stutzman hasn’t been able to replicate the enthusiasm for outsider candidates like Trump and Sanders. It’s a trend that’s haunted outsiders throughout the primary, including Greg Brannon in North Carolina and Kyle McCarter in Illinois. Whether Stutzman breaks that tonight remains to be seen.

The Sanders campaign isn’t easing up on attacks on the Clinton campaign’s fundraising. On Tuesday afternoon, Team Sanders sent out a message to supporters asking them to sign a petition calling on the Clinton campaign “to stop bending campaign-finance rules to their breaking point, and immediately transfer all the money allowable to the state parties participating in the ‘Hillary Victory Fund.’”

The petition drive is the latest escalation in an ongoing fundraising fight over the Victory Fund, a fundraising venture for the Clinton campaign, the Democratic National Committee, and 32 state Democratic parties. The Sanders campaign suggested last month that the fund may have violated campaign-finance laws, and on Monday it seized on a Politico investigation showing that less than 1 percent of 61 million dollars raised by the effort had been retained by state parties, leaving the impression that the Clinton campaign and the DNC are siphoning off the bulk of the money.

The Clinton campaign and the DNC have refuted the suggestion of any wrongdoing, but it looks like the back-and-forth won’t end anytime soon.

One location to watch as results roll in tonight from Indiana might be Elkhart County. Elkhart is an industrial town, the home of RV manufacturers and band-instrument makers. But the city was badly hurt by the 2008 recession, so much so that NBC News used it as the face of the slow recovery, anchoring an entire project around it.

In some ways, Elkhart has bounced back—its unemployment rate is now lower than the state average. But the city is blue collar, overwhelmingly white, and has a slightly higher percentage of residents over 65 than the national average. The median income in Elkhart County in 2010 was $47,258, below the national average. Less than 18 percent of citizens older than 25 have a bachelor’s degree or  more in terms of education. In other words, this seems like just the sort of area where Donald Trump has been drawing his support: aging, less educated white voters who feel left behind by the economy. Mitt Romney handily won the state in both the 2012 primary and the general election, but Elkhart might be Trump country tonight. Election officials report that turnout is up in Elkhart, and many of the voters at the polls told The Elkhart Truth—one of America’s greatest newspaper names—they were with Trump.

Tonight’s delegate math only matters if either Sanders or Cruz pulls off an upset victory. Eighty-three pledged delegates are up for grabs for the Democrats in Indiana, with 56 spread across the state;s congressional districts and 27 allocated by the statewide vote. But the proportional allocation system means Sanders would need a wide (and improbable) margin of victory here to dent Clinton's overall delegate lead. In recent polls, he’s been trailing her by a few percentage points.

Republicans are battling for 57 pledged delegates in the Hoosier State tonight. The Never Trump movement originally had high hopes for Indiana, since its winner-take-all system meant either Cruz or Kasich could grab the 30 statewide delegates, leaving Trump to win only a few of the state’s three-delegate congressional districts. But Trump rapidly eclipsed Cruz in state polls over the past few weeks and reversed the dilemma. A big win tonight by the blustery billionaire could instead set him up to reach the magic number of 1,237 delegates when California votes on June 7.

One unique thing about politics in Indiana is the real role basketball plays. Local culture is certainly important to races elsewhere in the country, but in Indiana, basketball can be rightly called its own special branch of politics, as I have detailed here.

The key takeaways for tonight? Bernie Sanders is the one  candidate in either race with a real game, and he has flaunted his jump shot in campaign stops in the state. Donald Trump isn’t a baller himself, but he has used the support of two legendary former college coaches in the state, Bobby Knight and Gene Keady, to widen his lead in the polls. But Ted Cruz’s “basketball ring” snafu could legitimately cost him votes today. Hoosiers take their game very seriously.

On this intense primary day, as Indiana’s 57 delegates and the Never Trump movement hang in the balance, Jeb Bush has decided to weigh in on a critical vote. Just not, you know, the one in Indiana.

Bush, who endorsed Ted Cruz back in March, is passionately advocating for the taxi alternative in his home county of Miami-Dade in Florida. County commissioners are deciding today whether Uber and Lyft should be allowed to operate there. The Miami Herald​ notes that the debate has been a “fight roughly two years in the making.”

It’s not entirely surprising that Bush would choose to weigh in on this relatively benign local issue rather the Indiana primary. In an election season where establishment Republicans like Bush learned they had little influence, he might have found it unwise to use his voice against Trump on the day of the primary, even if he did just criticize the billionaire days ago on CNN.

At the same time, it’s curious that he would use his voice at all today—I could see Bush take criticism for drawing attention to this Miami vote while his endorsee is flailing. Then again, maybe I’m underestimating just how much Bush loves Uber, and the lengths he’s willing to go to defend it.

We’re still a few hours away from polls closing in some counties in Indiana, and so far voter turnout has exceeded 2012 numbers when Obama was up for reelection. As Tony Cook from The Indianapolis Star points out, early voting numbers stand at 279,368, an uptick from 2012’s 119,639. On the ground, it certainly appears to be the case. Elections officials are prepared for big turnout and have already seen long lines in some counties.

High turnout is not exactly a surprise—it’s been consistent throughout this primary season. But Indiana’s contest also comes at a heated moment in the race, as Cruz and Sanders try to pull ahead and the front-runners hope to slow their lead. Whether problems will surface at polling places remains to be seen. ThinkProgress reports that in one county “officials cut the number of available voting sites from 15 to 5”—a move that caused chaos in Arizona earlier this year.

Polls close at 6 p.m. for all counties, although some western counties are on Central Time.

Indiana has made national news on social and religious issues at several points over the last year, usually when the state has been hit with big controversies. Last May, there were major protests over a proposed law ostensibly aimed at protecting religious freedom, a version of which later passed. This January, legislators tried to pass LGBT non-discrimination protections, but that effort quickly fizzled out. And then in March, the state passed an abortion law which forbids women from terminating their pregnancies at any point on the basis of sex, ethnicity, or certain detected genetic abnormalities, among other things. All of this fits the state’s profile: On average, it’s slightly more conservative and slightly more Christian than the rest of the country.

As David noted yesterday, this kind of territory should have been a gimme for Ted Cruz, whose campaign has largely been built on the support of evangelicals. If he can’t win over voters in Indiana, which looks likely, the loss will mark a pointed failure for his campaign. But it will also serve as a reminder that people’s religious identities—and their often related views on issues like gay rights and abortion—don’t cleanly predict their votes. This election cycle has complicated the monolithic notion of the conservative evangelical voting bloc, and Indiana is likely to complicate it even further.

As Nora noted, some 295,000 voters in Indiana requested early ballots. This may hinder Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders, who have consistently sought to court voters in the state, including on the eve of the primary. But, in what could be a boon to the Sanders campaign, the state is an open primary. The Vermont senator has fared well among Independents, who can vote in the Democratic primary in open primaries like Indiana’s. This also permits new voters and non-Democrats to vote for him. This was not the case last week, when a majority of the New England and Mid-Atlantic primaries were closed.

To Sanders’s benefit, Indiana is also largely white. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 77 percent of the state is white. Despite trying to gain traction among minorities, Sanders still comes short. Exit poll results have consistently showed him lagging behind Clinton in support from minority voters. To that end, Indiana’s demographic is theoretically set up to his advantage. Clinton still holds the lead in the state. A recent NBC / Wall Street Journal / Marist poll shows Clinton with 50 percent of likely Democratic primary voters supporting her in comparison to Sanders’s 46 percent.

When a pair of sociologists set out to document the heartland, recording the changes threatening traditional American communities, they came to Indiana.

Helen and Robert Lynd settled on Muncie, a city that might stand in for other similarly homogeneous communities. They called their book Middletown: A Study in Modern American Culture. In the Lynds’ account, Muncie fell victim to economic change, as technological innovation wove it into networks of trade. The forces of individualism, avarice, and consumerism served to erode families, churches, unions, and civic life, leaving workers adrift from the institutions that had once governed their lives.

Those are common themes this cycle. The thing is, the Lynds were measuring the change between 1890 and 1924.

Their book launched a thousand subsequent studies, making Muncie—Middletowna baseline against which to measure cultural change. One such project, What Middletown Read transcribed more than a decade of library records. So I pulled the cards from exactly 120 years ago, in May of 1896, when William Jennings Bryan, a fiery populist, was shattering taboos, speaking to the cultural and economic concerns of white, working-class Americans as their support powered his run for the presidency.

In Muncie, Horatio Alger’s up-by-their-own-bootstraps tales of success were flying off the shelves: Ragged Dick, Tattered Tom, The Telegraph Boy. Charles Austin Fosdick’s adventure tales for boys, and Louisa May Alcott’s stories, were also popular. Rudyard Kipling’s new Jungle Book fared well. And I’m pleased to report that on Friday, May 8, 1896, Mrs. Orie J. Marks checked out a copy of The Atlantic Monthly.  

I sifted through the hundreds of records, hoping to glean some sparkling political insight. Instead, I found in them a powerful reminder that even in a year of political revolution like 1896—with the nation still in the grips of a great depression—for most people, life continues as normal.

Hillary Clinton isn’t in Indiana today, and she doesn’t plan on making election-night remarks. “I’m really focused on moving into the general election,” she told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Tuesday afternoon in West Virginia, where she’s completing a two-day tour of Appalachia.

As I wrote this morning, there was a time when coal country was Clinton country—Bill Clinton won Kentucky and West Virginia twice in the 1990s and Hillary eviscerated Barack Obama in those two states in 2008. But that time is long past, and Clinton has been confronting the new reality over the last two days—including a group of protesters who met her in West Virginia. On Monday, she apologized for saying she would put coal miners and companies “out of business.” And in her interview with Mitchell, she acknowledged that Democratic-led policies to move toward clean energy—along with other market factors—have “taken a toll” on Americans in Appalachia. “It’s gotten increasingly challenging for Democrats to be successful,” she said.

In the interview, Clinton spoke of coal miners almost as if they were veterans of a long-ago war. She made no promises to bring their jobs back and reiterated her commitment to pursuing a “clean-energy future.” “But,” she said, “we also have to remember who turned on the lights and powered the factories and provided the energy that we needed to build our country.” She touted a $30 billion plan for aid to coal country and two bills proposed by Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia to protect safety and benefits for coal miners and those who have been laid off. “I want to be a president for all of America,” Clinton said. “I’m not writing off any part of America, any people in our country, and that includes people here in West Virginia in coal country.”

Clinton also addressed Donald Trump’s latest comments about her, when he said that her boast of dealing with men who went “off the reservation” was a reference to her philandering husband. “That’s not true,” she said. Clinton insisted she was referring to “visceral, really mean-spirited attacks” from male opponents like the two she faced in her first run for the Senate in New York in 2000: Rudy Giuliani and Rick Lazio. She also mentioned Vladimir Putin, who has harshly criticized her. Asked how she would handle all the stuff Trump planned to “dump” on her in the general election, Clinton responded with a version of what has become her standard reply. “Join the crowd,” she said with a laugh. “People have been dumping stuff on me for 25 years, and here I am on the brink of being the first woman nominee of a major party.”

Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders are counting on Indiana to give their campaigns a little hope. Both candidates held events in the state yesterday in a last-ditch effort to lure voters over to their respective camps. But unfortunately for the candidates, more than 250,000 of Indiana’s voters may have already been outside their reach.

That’s because Indiana has early voting, and this year, roughly 295,000 Hoosiers requested early ballots, according to figures from the Indiana Secretary of State's office. Of those voters, the vast majority returned them: Monday totals showed approximately 95 percent—about 280,000—sent them back. But based on news reports this morning, the number is even higher: Officials will count any ballots received by noon today, and as of 8 a.m. 286,000 had been received. The state Election Division co-director said the figure “beat[s] the 2008 number pretty handily.”

According to Monday’s totals, 70,000 or so more Republicans requested ballots than Democrats. That could be bad news for Cruz, who’d hoped to change hearts and minds in a state where Trump was polling ahead. It’s possible voters who might have otherwise been swayed by Governor Mike Pence’s Friday endorsement or Cruz’s selection of Carly Fiorina as his VP last week slipped through his fingers.

The polls in Indiana don’t close for more than five hours, but it’s hard to imagine what horrors might await the nation this evening, given how nasty things got before noon.

First, there was Donald Trump repeating a bogus National Enquirer story about Ted Cruz’s father. Cruz, understandably upset, lashed out: “I’m going to do something I haven’t done for the entire campaign,” he said. “I'm going to tell you what I really think of Donald Trump. This man is a pathological liar. He doesn't know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his month.

“The man cannot tell the truth, but he combines it with being a narcissist,” Cruz added. He also talked about Trump’s “venereal diseases.”

Meanwhile on CNN, Cruz surrogate Steve Lonegan said the GOP would “nominate Hillary Clinton with a penis.”

Even Barry Bennett, who’s spent this election working for Ben Carson and Trump, seemed surprised. Going after Clinton’s gender is a risky move, but with high stakes in Indiana, the campaigns are throwing caution—along with propriety and dignity—to the wind.

As has been the case in several other states, including New Hampshire and Maryland, today’s primaries come in the middle of a public-health crisis in Indiana. The state has been a center of the country’s opioid crisis, and it has faced especially serious health concerns as the result of a heroin epidemic. Scott County, a rural area, became an unlikely face of HIV infection after nearly 200 people were infected with the virus last year and a public-health emergency was issued by the state. The state has extended that declaration through 2017.

Hillary Clinton has capitalized on that issue, emphasizing the opioid crisis in recent remarks around Indiana, including a personal message about friends she has lost to drugs. In a state where a big win for Clinton could finally end most meaningful debate about the Democratic nominee, that message could provide her the fuel she needs. And as eyes turn towards the general election, the issue of opioids and their effects in rural areas like those in Indiana will become an issue of even more critical national importance.

The Democratic primary race looks pretty lopsided at this point. Reflecting that reality, Bernie Sanders articulated a new goal after a string of losses in Northeastern primary states last week—attempting to influence the Democratic party platform. If he wants to do that, Sanders will have to show he still has a loyal following by the time the Democratic convention takes place this summer. His fundraising has taken a hit in the wake of recent defeats, and Indiana will test whether Sanders can hold onto support as the Democratic primary enters this next phase of the race. Clinton has started to ramp up her efforts to win over Bernie voters, and the ballots tonight could serve as an indicator of whether she’s made significant inroads in her quest for party unity. Younger voters have consistently sided with Sanders over Clinton. If they start defecting to Clinton, that could be a sign that Democratic voters are ready to coalesce behind the front-runner.

Ted Cruz has tried two different gambits in the run-up to Indiana in a last-ditch bid to halt Donald Trump’s march to the nomination. The first was striking a non-aggression pact with John Kasich so that the Ohio governor would not seriously challenge him in Indiana. The second was picking Carly Fiorina as a running mate.

Neither seems to have worked.

Polls showed that the Kasich alliance may actually have backfired among voters who saw it as evidence that the GOP was trying to take the nomination from Trump. And according to a Morning Consult poll released on Tuesday, Republican voters were split on whether Cruz’s selection of Fiorina would make them more, or less, likely to vote for him. In other words, his announcement had no impact. The worse news for Cruz is that in the week since Trump swept the Eastern Seaboard states, his lead in Indiana has grown. If anything, Cruz’s desperation play has only set him back further.

A win in Indiana for Ted Cruz would undoubtedly help buoy his campaign, but perhaps more importantly it would also keep money streaming in. A Politico report this morning details what’s at stake for the Cruz campaign.

“I think the super donors or the megadonors—they stop spending money. They’re not going to get on board Trump, but they’re not going to continue to invest in what they perceive as a lost cause,” said Erick Erickson.

The outlook is grim for Cruz despite a busy month that included an alliance with John Kasich and a newly named running mate, Carly Fiorina. In Indiana, polls show the Texas senator trailing behind Donald Trump.

If the polls are right and Cruz loses, it could put him at risk of losing “millions in ad support from groups like the Club for Growth, Our Principles PAC, and the pro-Cruz Trusted Leadership PAC”—a significant disadvantage coming in to California’s primary on June 7, in which 172 delegate are up for grabs.