As predicted, the Indiana Republican voters handed Donald Trump an overwhelming victory on Tuesday. Trump demolished Cruz 53% to 36% with the hapless Kasich getting only a pathetic 7% of the vote.
Cruz has suspended his campaign. Trump now has a clear path to sewing up the GOP nomination for President.
Indiana was supposed to be Ted Cruz’s fire wall, the state that was going to stop the Trump train in its tracks. A resounding victory in Indiana may have provided Cruz with the opportunity to beat Donald Trump in a contested GOP convention on the second or third ballot.
Note that over 50% of the GOP electorate in Indiana are white evangelicals. These are Cruz’s peeps!
And Cruz secured the endorsement of conservative Republican governor, Mike Pence, reputedly a hero of the religious right.
So where did Cruz go wrong?
Firstly, Cruz fatally misread the Indiana electorate.
In the last few weeks, Cruz had hammered Trump as being soft on religious liberty on behalf of the Christian right. In other words, Trump was pro gay, pro same sex marriage, pro LGBTQ rights, especially the right of transgender people to use the washroom of their choice, and the right of gay couples to get wedding cakes from Christian bakers.
Cruz failed to realize that although Indiana is a conservative state, neither the evangelicals or the Tea Party types have significant influence over the state's politics.
Indiana Republicans adhere more to Main Street values: small business, small conservative government, without the emphasis on social conservatism.
Secondly, the evangelical voters in Indiana appear to be choosing Trump over Cruz and Kasich on economic and national security issues. That's what Republican evangelicals did in Mississippi, where 84 % of the GOP voters self-identified as evangelicals. In that primary, Trump won 48% to 39% of the evangelicals. Trump beat Cruz among evangelicals in South Carolina by 33% to 27%.
Note even Indiana Governor Pence’s endorsement of Cruz appeared lukewarm. In fact, he almost sounded like he was endorsing Trump:
I particularly want to commend Donald Trump, who I think has given voice to the frustration of millions of working Americans with a lack of progress in Washington, D.C. And I'm also particularly grateful that Donald Trump has taken a strong stand for Hoosier jobs when we saw jobs in the Carrier company abruptly announce leaving Indiana not for another state but for Mexico. (...) I'm grateful for his voice in the national debate.
Frankly, that was one of the strongest, most thoughtful, and most genuine comments in favour of Trump by any government official during these primaries.
Thirdly, Cruz’s coalition gambit with Kasich also hurt his Indiana campaign.
A recent poll concluded that about 60% of the Indiana voters were opposed to the Cruz/Kasich coalition, the terms of which stipulated that Kasich supporters were encouraged to support Cruz in Indiana. Except Kasich supporters were sticking with Kasich, note his 13% support in a recent WSJ/NBC poll.
I believe that Indiana voters rejected Cruz in part because this ridiculous coalition idea reeked of sleazy backroom politics, with the sole goal of stopping Trump, and not advancing any policies of interest to Indiana voters.
Lastly, for those Trump critics who are still deluded into thinking that Trump is a buffoon and a joke, he has pulled off an incredible political upset.
He beat Senator Ted Cruz in the heart of socially conservative, evangelical Indiana, by being his own guy and sticking to his strong economic message in favour of hard-working and middle income groups, while still supporting gender and sexual equality.
Note Trump specifically did not pander to the extreme right wing social conservatives of the GOP.
Accordingly, unlike Romney before him, Trump will be able to pivot to the centre without social conservative baggage, and take on Hillary where she is weakest: improving the economy for the working and middle income groups.
Hillary, you should be scared. Be very scared of The Donald.