NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Donald Trump is all but certain to lead the Republican Party into the fall presidential campaign against Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, a stunning political triumph for a first-time candidate whose appeal with frustrated voters was widely underestimated.
Trump still needs about 200 delegates to formally secure the nomination, but Ted Cruz’s abrupt decision to end his campaign following Trump’s victory in Indiana Tuesday removed his last major obstacle.
John Kasich, who had remained Trump’s only GOP rival, also plans to end his bid for the White House. Sources said the Ohio governor is announcing his decision in a statement from his home state later Wednesday.
Kasich had pledged to stay in the race on Tuesday, with his campaign manager saying he would continue to “offer the voters a clear choice for our country.”
But Kasich has won just one primary, his home state of Ohio, and trails Trump by nearly 900 delegates.
Tuesday night, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said Trump is now the “presumptive nominee” adding that “we all need to unite and focus on defeating” Clinton.
But John Dickerson, host of “Face the Nation” and CBS News political director, said a match-up between Trump and Clinton “might not be very pretty.”
“We have two candidates here who are at historic negatives in terms of the public’s view,” he said.
In addition, some Republican leaders remain deeply wary of the bombastic billionaire and have insisted they could never support him, even in a face-off against Clinton.
“We’ll also have to see where Republicans line up behind Trump,” said Dickerson. “There are some who are still in the Never Trump camp.”
The Clinton campaign released a statement Tuesday night saying, “While Donald Trump seeks to bully and divide Americans, Hillary Clinton will unite us to create an economy that works for everyone.”
In a tweet late Tuesday, Clinton tweeted, “Donald Trump is the presumptive GOP nominee. Chip in now if you agree we can’t let him become president.”
Cruz had clung to the hope that he could keep the GOP front-runner from reaching the 1,237 delegates needed for the nomination and push the race to a rare contested convention.
But before a somber crowd in Indianapolis, Cruz told supporters, “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.”
During his victory rally in New York Tuesday night, Trump called Cruz “one tough competitor.”
“Ted Cruz — I don’t know if he likes me or doesn’t like me — he’s one hell of a competitor, he’s one tough guy and he’s got an amazing future,” Trump said.
On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders netted about a half-dozen more delegates than Clinton after winning Indiana Tuesday. But in terms of the delegate math, his path to the Democratic nomination hasn’t gotten any easier.
Clinton is now 92 percent of the way to clinching the Democratic nomination.
With 83 Indiana delegates at stake, Sanders will gain at least 43. Clinton picked up at least 37. Three delegates remain to be allocated, pending final vote tallies.
That means based on primaries and caucuses to date, Clinton now has 1,682 and Sanders has 1,361.
Clinton’s lead is bigger when including superdelegates, or party officials who can back any candidate.
She has 2,202, or 181 delegates away from the 2,383 needed to win, keeping her on track to clinch the nomination by early June. Sanders has 1,400.
If he still hopes to win the nomination, Sanders would need to win more than 84 percent of the remaining delegates and superdelegates.
Early Wednesday morning, Trump tweeted: “I would rather run against Crooked Hillary Clinton than Bernie Sanders and that will happen because the books are cooked against Bernie!”
Superdelegates favor Clinton by a nearly 18-1 margin.
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