Donald Trump is the apparent GOP presidential nominee after his two remaining rivals ended their White House bids.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich suspended his campaign Wednesday evening in Columbus. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz dropped out of the race Tuesday night after a disappointing loss in Indiana.
The rapid moves in the past 24 hours bring to a close a wild GOP primary season that leaves the one-time unlikely candidate as the party's apparent nominee.
Trump was widely discounted when he announced his bid on June 16 last year after publicly flirting with a White House run for many years but not following through. The real estate mogul dominated the news cycles and was impervious to ramifications from controversial statements and missteps that would have doomed any other nominee. The GOP electorate, fed up with a Republican Party they felt had too often capitulated to Democratic demands, was angry, and Trump became the vehicle for that anger and desire for an outsider candidate.
He now inherits a deeply fractured Republican Party and has many challenges in uniting his former rivals and opponents behind his candidacy. #NeverTrump forces poured millions of dollars into ads in Indiana as a last-ditch effort to stop him, an aim that would be for naught.
Trump will now turn his attention toward the general election against likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton — a more uphill fight than he had in the primary contest he dominated for much of the past year. He told the New York Times in an interview that he'll begin searching for a running mate too, with former rival-turned-surrogate Dr. Ben Carson heading up that vetting process.
Despite Trump's claims otherwise, Clinton has consistently led him in head-to-head matchups. While Trump has claimed he would expand the map as the GOP nominee, the more likely scenario is that some states previously out of contention for Democrats, such as Georgia or Arizona, could quickly become competitive. While Clinton does have high negatives, Trump's unfavorable ratings with general election voters — who are more diverse and more Democratic — are abysmal and the worst for any recent major party de facto nominee.
Many Republicans have recently reiterated that if Trump was the GOP nominee, they wouldn't vote for him. Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse tweeted Tuesday night that his earlier statement that he would never support Trump stands. Mark Salter, a longtime top adviser to 2008 GOP nominee John McCain, said Tuesday he would be voting for Clinton over Trump.
Even before Tuesday, both Cruz and Kasich had already been mathematically eliminated from getting the 1,237 requisite delegates to stop Trump on the first ballot at a GOP convention. Instead, their only hope was denying Trump a majority of delegates and hoping that GOP delegates would switch allegiances to their camps in a multiple ballot scenario.
For the past month and a half, Cruz and Kasich remained in the race as alternatives to Trump even though their chances remained daunting. Kasich only won one state — his home of Ohio — back on March 15 and hadn't amassed many delegates since then. In fact, he ends fourth in the delegate race behind Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who suspended his campaign nearly two months ago.
Kasich's campaign remained resolute though, believing that at a contested GOP convention in Cleveland this summer, party stalwarts would eventually turn toward the moderate governor of a crucial swing state. Even on Tuesday night as Cruz announced his exit, Kasich's team signaled that they would remain in the race. By Wednesday morning, though, they seemed to have finally accepted the harsh reality. While Kasich was on his plane flying to Washington, D.C., for a news conference at Dulles airport in Virginia, he had a change of heart and decided to turn the plane around and head to Ohio, where his White House bid would officially come to an end.
In a speech Wednesday evening in which he reflected on the positive message he'd tried to portray with his campaign, Kasich thanks his staff and supporters.
"As I suspend my campaign today, I have renewed faith, a deeper faith, that the Lord will show me the way forward and fulfill the purpose of my life," Kasich said.
Cruz had been Trump's closest competitor. The Texas senator — who was no favorite of party stalwarts either — did outmaneuver Trump at many state-level delegate races, hoping to gain the upper hand at the GOP convention. Ultimately, he won the most votes or delegates in 11 states and netted more than 7 million votes.