Trump virtually clinches nomination; Cruz quits

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Donald Trump virtually clinched the Republican nomination for president Tuesday night, a stunning victory for the brash billionaire who was considered more a celebrity curiosity than a serious candidate when he entered the race less than a year ago. He soundly defeated Ted Cruz, his last real rival, in the Indiana primary and the Texas senator quickly dropped out.

“Thank you Indiana, we were just projected to be the winner,” said Trump, still highly controversial in his own party but a long shot no more.

Trump still must win about 200 more delegates to clinch the nomination. But his victory in Indiana – where he picked up at least 45 of the state’s 57 delegates – made it all but impossible for Cruz to block him from doing so.

Cruz told a somber crowd in Indianapolis: 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.”

Cruz campaigned aggressively in Indiana, but could not overcome Trump. The billionaire businessman has stunned the Republican Party with his appeal to voters deeply frustrated with Washington and their own party’s leaders.

Before Tuesday’s results, Cruz had vowed to stay in the race through the final primaries in June, clinging to the possibility that Trump would fall short of the 1,237 delegates he needs and the race would go to a contested convention.

Trump now faces pressure to unite a Republican Party that has been roiled by his candidacy. But whether he can accomplish that remains deeply uncertain.