Ultimately, the primary results in the Crossroads of America didn’t wildly change the state of the race in either party. Fresh from their commanding wins in the previous New York and Acela Primaries, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton didn’t pay much attention to Indiana. Trump’s campaign spent $960,000 on positive advertising for the candidate versus the $6 million spent against Trump. Similarly, Clinton spent $0 on advertising compared to $1.5 million spent by opponent Bernie Sanders.
The heavy win by Trump ended the candidacies of Senator Ted Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich, and with them the last hopes of an increasingly desperate Republican Party. This clears the way for Donald Trump to claim the Republican nomination without the chaos of a contested convention. It remains to be seen whether the Republican Party establishment will grit their teeth and coalesce around Trump or keep their distance.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell chose the former, offering this bland statement on Trump:
I have committed to supporting the nominee chosen by Republican voters, and Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee, is now on the verge of clinching that nomination.
However, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan (the highest ranking Republican), has adopted the latter stance, stating in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper that, “I’m just not ready to do that [support Trump] at this point. I’m not there right now.” Ryan’s words did nothing to heal the yawning rift in the Republican Party after a particularly bruising primary race. Further, he faced swift and furious condemnation from Trump and Trump supporters for his attempt to prevent the hostile takeover of the Republican Party.
Other Republican Senators running for re-election in tight races, like Rob Portman (Ohio), Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire), and Ron Johnson (Wisconsin), have all committed to supporting the nominee, without endorsing Trump. Additionally, at least 8 Senate Republicans are planning on skipping the Republican convention in Cleveland, Ohio, that will officially nominate Mr Trump. Further, the only two living Republican Presidents, George HW Bush and George W Bush, both immensely popular with their own party, have both declined to endorse Trump, despite their strong endorsements of previous Republican nominees (Bob Dole, John McCain, Mitt Romney).
Trump has been able to secure the endorsements of a number of US Representatives, Senators, and Governors. However, the data indicates that his endorsement numbers are far below the standard number of endorsements received by previous nominees by this point. This endorsement deficit probably isn’t fatal to Trump’s candidacy, but the clear reluctance of some, and the less-than-full-throated endorsement of others indicates that the Donald is far from uniting the party behind him. In addition, Hillary Clinton released a devastating ad chronicling the Republicans that have attacked Trump, showing that the Democrats have no intention of letting the Republicans forget their brutal primary.
On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders recorded a close victory over Hillary Clinton. Polls predicted a Clinton victory, but a deeper examination by the data by the team at FiveThirtyEight predicted that due to Indiana’s demographics, Sanders was actually favoured to win Indiana by around seven points, which was close to the final result.
Sanders’ victory in Indiana quietened calls for him to exit the race prior to California, but he didn’t achieve the blowout victory needed to close the delegate gap with Clinton. Challengingly for Sanders, he now requires a higher margin of victory in the remaining contests than he did before Indiana.
After reports that Sanders had dramatically slashed his staff numbers, and comments by senior Sanders campaign strategist Tad Devine that Sanders would ‘reassess’ his campaign after strong losses in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Connecticut, conventional wisdom indicated that Sanders would begin to wind down his campaign apparatus. But the Junior Senator from Vermont has said that he intends to stay in until the last vote is cast, potentially blocking Clinton from turning her full attention to the general election contest.
Bolstering Sanders’ decision to fight through to the convention is the fact that he’s in a strong position to win both the West Virginia and Oregon Primaries. Although Clinton has 2,223 delegates of the 2,383 necessary to clinch the nomination, Sanders appears undaunted and holds to his argument that the super delegates will switch away from Clinton a la 2008.
Looking ahead, the biggest threat to Donald Trump is his inability to unify the Republican Party. Supporters of Senator Sanders will back Clinton in the general election, but it is unclear whether any of Mr Trump’s vanquished foes will vigorously urge their supporters to back the divisive billionaire. Traditionally, this end of the primary process sees a narrowing of the process, but true to form, this cycle is on the edge of defying that tradition.