Washington – Billionaire Donald Trump pledged on Wednesday to unify the fractured Republican Party as he looked beyond the bruising primary season to a November clash for the White House with likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Trump’s path to the GOP presidential nomination is now clear after his commanding victory in Indiana’s primary on Tuesday pushed his chief opponent Ted Cruz out of the race. His lone remaining rival John Kasich threw in the towel later on Wednesday, bringing the curtain down on one of the most contentious, chaotic and vicious nomination battles in generations, one in which Trump pummelled no fewer than 16 rivals into submission.
“Now we’ll unify the party. We’re going to get people together,” the 69-year-old Trump told Fox News on Wednesday.
“I think we’ll beat Hillary Clinton.”
Trump also began discussing the idea of his possible running mate, telling ABC News he wanted “a person with political experience” to compliment his own business acumen.
“I would like to have somebody that could truly be good with respect to dealing with the Senate, dealing with Congress, getting legislation passed.”
Clinton ahead in CNN poll
A new CNN poll looking ahead to the next phase of the White House race however found Clinton, hoping at 68 to become America’s first female commander-in-chief, leading the billionaire real estate mogul. The former secretary of state has 54 percent support to 41 percent for Trump, the poll showed – her largest lead since July. Clinton suffered a shock loss in Indiana to her challenger Bernie Sanders, who has pledged to remain in the race until the end despite an extremely steep hill to climb, with the former first lady far ahead in the all-important delegate race.
“The Clinton campaign thinks this campaign is over. They’re wrong,” Sanders said in a statement as he vowed to “fight until the last vote is cast.”
‘We will get destroyed’
Several prominent Republicans were nevertheless refusing to support Trump in November despite his status as the presumptive White House nominee. Those refusals highlight the continued tensions within the GOP, which has been at a loss to describe the stunning ascent of a brash billionaire who was given no chance of winning when he launched his campaign last June.
“If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed… and we will deserve it,” tweeted Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump rival whose campaign fizzled. Trump expressed optimism he could line up sufficient support in the Republican ranks – although he suggested some wounds were still too raw to heal right away.
“I am confident that I can unite much of it. Some of it I don’t want,” he told NBC, citing the harsh verbal attacks made by unnamed rivals and party grandees during the primary process.
“Honestly, there are some people I really don’t want. I don’t think it’s necessary.”
‘She should suffer’
Trump pivoted to his expected showdown with Clinton on November 8.
“Bernie Sanders said that she’s got poor judgment. And she does,” Trump said on MSNBC, as he poked into the long-running controversy over Clinton’s use of a personal email account and private server while she was secretary of state.
“You look at the e-mail scandals, she shouldn’t even be allowed to run,” he said.
“She should suffer like other people have suffered who have done far less than she has.”
‘The voters chose another path’
Tuesday’s contest in the midwestern Hoosier State was the final firewall thrown up by Republican heavyweights to keep the brash, name-calling Trump from locking up the party’s nomination. But as the race was called overwhelmingly in Trump’s favour, Cruz conceded to supporters in Indianapolis that he no longer had a viable path forward.
“We left it all on the field in Indiana,” Cruz said as he suspended his campaign.
“We gave it everything we’ve got, but the voters chose another path.”
It was a stunning denouement for the 45-year-old arch-conservative Texas senator, who had insisted he would press on to the final day of the Republican race. Having amassed 1 053 delegates, Trump was already in a favourable position to reach the magic number needed to avoid a contested party convention in July.
With Cruz and Kasich out of the race, nominee Trump is a foregone conclusion.
“I believe Donald Trump will ultimately get chosen, and he’s going to join the party,” Republican National Committee chief Reince Priebus said on Wednesday, in an extraordinary embrace of a candidate the party establishment had fought tooth and nail to stop.
“We need to get behind the Republican nominee, and that’s what I’m going to try to do for the next several months.”
For more than two years, Hillary Clinton has been Democrats’ sure-thing next presidential nominee, while Republicans sorted through a messy and expansive field of wannabes. Yet now, she’s dealing with an interminable primary, as the GOP’s new presumptive nominee Donald Trump trains his sights on her. The sudden departures of Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. John Kasich from the Republican race – which came sooner than Clinton aides expected – coupled with Sen. Bernie Sanders’ decision to stay in the race, creates a new challenge for Clinton, who now has to defend herself on two flanks.
“I’m still trying to come to terms with the fact that any Republican, let alone Donald Trump, was able to solidify the nomination before she was,” said Patrick Murray, the polling director at Monmouth University. “This makes it really tough for her. There’s no feasible way for Bernie Sanders to win the nomination, yet his decision to fight on in anything more than just a token way means she’s got to continue to expend resources in places that she wouldn’t bother.”
Clinton and her campaign have adopted a posture of benign indifference to Sanders, largely ignoring him and declining to engage his attacks. Meanwhile, they’ve pulled resources away from the primary to devote to the general election, and have already been engaging consistently with Trump. That strategy won’t change now, campaign officials say, even as the primary technically continues for another five weeks. Despite Sanders’ upset victory in Indiana Tuesday, he remains a non-threat. Trump is now public enemy number one inside Clinton’s Brooklyn headquarters.
“Yes, it’s a two-front fight, but not evenly so,” said Tracy Sefl, a former aide to Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. “With Hillary poised to secure the nomination, her approach to Sanders is justifiably laissez-faire. With Trump, everyone is readying for DEFCON 1.”
Clinton is going to need Sanders’ supporters in the general election and will do nothing to push them away, even while she looks over Sanders’ head to Trump.
“I’m not calling myself [the presumptive nominee],” Clinton said in her first comments after the Indiana primary Wednesday, in an interview with CNN. “I know there are still some contests ahead and I respect Senator Sanders and whatever choices he make.”
At a time when many Democrats are champing at the bit for Sanders to step aside, Clinton is sanguine. “I have a lot of empathy about this. You know, I ran till the very end in 2008,” she said. The nightmare scenario for Democrats is the 1980 election, when then-Sen. Ted Kennedy fought incumbent President Jimmy Carter through to a brutal battle on the floor of the Democratic National Convention in New York City. That fight was thought to have weakened Carter and contribute to his eventual loss to Ronald Reagan in the fall. But few think 2016 will go down like 1980.
Veteran Democratic strategist Bob Shrum wrote Kennedy’s famous concession speech at the convention. He said Clinton can now begin assuming the mantle of the party’s spokesperson and standard bearer, even while allowing Sanders continue unmolested.
“She can’t deal with him in any way other than with kid gloves,” said Shrum. “That means room and respect for him to run all the way to the convention if she wants.”
Still, Sanders could distract, delay and potentially damage Clinton while Trump gets a head start on the general election. Trump has already said he’ll use Sanders’ attacks on Clinton against her, especially his comment that the former secretary of state is unqualified to be president. (Clinton is doing the same with Trump’s opponents). The likely Democratic nominee’s schedule over the next month will be dictated by the primary calendar, and it takes her through just a single battleground state, and a minor one at that: New Mexico. The rest of the trail passes through either safe Democratic states – like California, New Jersey and Oregon – or bright red Republican ones, like West Virginia and the Dakotas.
Clinton won’t be likely to campaign in these states in a general election, so any time and money spent in them now could be seen as a waste. California’s size makes it a notoriously expensive place to run campaigns, but it would look terrible for Clinton to lose there, even if she still won the nomination. “You don’t want to end this by losing in the biggest and most reliably democratic state in the union,” said Shrum. Clinton has, for the moment at least, stopped spending any money on television advertising in any of the remaining primary states to preserve that money for the general. That could change, especially after some question her campaign’s decision to cede the airwaves to Sanders in Indiana. Her campaign has already been rolling out officials to run her general election campaign in key battleground states like Ohio and Florida.
But as long as Clinton has to stay in the primary, she might as well make it count, said Mo Elleithee, a former Democratic National Committee official who now runs Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics. Clinton can use the remaining primaries and caucuses as tools to develop her messaging and organizational prowess for the general. “In 2008, John McCain was the nominee in March, and we kept going all the way to June. And at the end of the day it was the best thing for the Democratic Party,” Elleithee said.
Indeed, Sanders allies say he’s actually doing her a favor by staying in the race. Rep. Raul Grijalva, Sanders’ first congressional endorser, said if Sanders were to drop out now, he would leave a large chunk of the Democratic base feeling like they don’t have a home in the Democratic Party.
“It’s not like the Bernie people are going to run to Trump. What they’d do is not vote,” he said. “Instead of getting the support that you need going into the general, you’d get disillusionment.”
It’s better for Clinton and all Democrats, he said, for Sanders to say in to make sure his supporters feel appreciated by securing some kind accommodation at the convention, like a chance to the platform or nominating process.
“Finishing it out, going to the convention strengthens the party because everyone stays in the tent,”Grijalva said.
- ^ champing at the bit (www.washingtonpost.com)
- ^ Here’s What Donald Trump Must Consider in Picking a Running Mate (www.nbcnews.com)
- ^ enjoying this primary and want it to continue. (www.msnbc.com)
- ^ has already said (www.washingtonpost.com)
- ^ doing the same (amp.twimg.com)
- ^ Trump’s First Challenge Is to Unite a Fractured Party (www.nbcnews.com)
The Latest on the 2016 presidential campaign (all times EDT):
7:55 p.m. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Donald Trump, as the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee, has the “opportunity and the obligation” to unite the GOP. In a statement, McConnell says he committed to supporting the nominee chosen by Republican voters and noted that Trump is on the verge of clinching that nomination. But McConnell’s statement was hardly a full-throated endorsement.
The Kentucky Republican says his party is committed to “restoring economic and national security” and preventing what he characterized as a “third term of Barack Obama” if Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton wins the White House. He says Trump now must unite the party around “our goals.”
7:30 p.m. Donald Trump is sticking with two of his most controversial policy proposals now that he has become the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee. Trump tells NBC’s Lester Holt that he stands by his plan to temporary bar foreign Muslims from entering the country if he’s elected president because of the dangers of extremism.
He says, “We have to be vigilant.”
Trump is also standing by his plan to deport all of the estimated 11 million people living in the country illegally. He says, “Yes, they’re going to be deported.” He wants to put a system in place that would allow some to return.
6:26 p.m. Hillary Clinton is taking nothing for granted as California’s mega-primary approaches, reaching out to Hispanic and black voters in the hope of waging a final knockout against rival Bernie Sanders.
Clinton’s visit to the Golden State Thursday coincides with Cinco de Mayo, the annual celebration of Mexican culture and heritage. She also plans to rally supporters in the gymnasium of a community college that serves heavily Hispanic cities on the edge of Los Angeles. The event will carry symbolic value. The venue, East Los Angeles College, isn’t far from another local school where Clinton kicked off her successful 2008 presidential primary run, and later, went on to beat then-Sen. Barack Obama in the state’s Democratic primary.
6:20 p.m. Donald Trump says he’s setting up a vice presidential vetting committee “very soon” that could include some of his former running mates.
In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Wednesday, Trump said that he has yet to begin to seriously consider his potential running mates. He says he may put Ben Carson and Chris Christie on the committee.
5:43 p.m. Donald Trump is revealing some possible Cabinet picks if he’s elected president.
In an interview with Fox News’s “The O’Reilly Factor,” the presumptive GOP nominee says he’d consider naming former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani secretary of homeland security, Gov. Chris Christie attorney general and Dr. Ben Carson secretary of health and human services. He says he has not made final decisions, “but certainly they would three very wise choices.”
Trump also said Carson is not interested in being his running mate.
5:30 p.m. Hillary Clinton is wooing Asian-Americans voters, saying she looks forward to the fast-growing voting bloc be part of her administration.
The Democratic front-runner says there is “a place for” the community in her campaign. “I want you to be part of not only winning a campaign but more importantly really governing our country,” she says in Washington on Wednesday. Clinton spoke at a conference hosted by an advocacy organization representing Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders.
5:25 p.m. A spokesman for George W. Bush says the former president does “not plan to participate in or comment on” the 2016 presidential race.
The spokesman, Freddy Ford, was responding to an inquiry from The Associated Press about whether Bush planned to support Donald Trump now that the businessman is the presumptive Republican nominee. While Bush has largely stayed out of politics since leaving the White House, his refusal to publicly support his party’s nominee is remarkable. It underscores the deep frustration within some corners of the GOP over Trump’s candidacy. The former president helped raise money for his brother Jeb Bush’s failed primary campaign. He also headlined a rally for his brother in South Carolina where he implicitly criticized Trump for inflaming Americans’ anger and frustration.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley says she’s “flattered” but “not interested” in being vice president. But Haley, who had endorsed former presidential candidate Marco Rubio, said she will “support the Republican nominee for president” out of her “great respect for the will of the people.”
She did not mention presumptive nominee Donald Trump’s name in a short statement. Haley has frequently been mentioned as an appealing candidate for the GOP nominee. But she’s crossed swords with Trump who won the South Carolina primary over immigration and other issues.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich (KAY’-sik) is acknowledging that his message “wasn’t a great sound byte” and he is suspending his campaign for president. The two-year Ohio governor and former congressman was visibly emotional Wednesday as he thanked his family, campaign staff and supporters without ever saying directly what would happen to his campaign. Kasich had perpetually trailed even as the crowded GOP field narrowed. But Kasich was insisting ? even as recently as after Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’ departure from the race Tuesday night ? that he would remain in the race until New York billionaire Donald Trump definitely secured the 1,237 delegates necessary to clinch the GOP nomination.
He thanked his wife, twin daughters, campaign staff and armies of volunteers. Kasich said of his staff, “Nobody has ever done more with less in the history of politics.
3:00 p.m. With Donald Trump seizing the GOP mantle, Hillary Clinton says she’s running on her plans for the country’s future not simply to stop the billionaire New Yorker.
She also says she’s not worried about fending off the kind of deeply personal attacks that took out Trump’s GOP rivals.
“This, to me, is a classic case of a blustering, bullying guy,” she tells CNN in an interview. Clinton says Trump has yet to detail his policies and has divided the country with a campaign that is “insulting people.”
“He has played all sides of the political area. That’s his choice and he can explain it. I’ve been very specific,” she says. Clinton also is urging Republicans and independents to join her “on the American team,” against Trump.
Donald Trump says he’s willing to consider Ohio Gov. John Kasich as a running mate. He tells CNN that he would “be interested in vetting John,” but adds that even as governor, Kasich would be “helpful” with swinging Ohio into Trump’s column on Election Day. Trump says he has a good relationship with Kasich, the billionaire’s last remaining Republican rival for the GOP presidential nomination.
Kasich is expected to quit the race later Wednesday, according to three campaign officials who spoke to The Associated Press anonymously because they’re not authorized to discuss the matter.
2:20 p.m. The Rolling Stones have asked presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to stop playing their songs at his campaign events. In a statement Wednesday, the rock band said they have not given permission to the Trump campaign to use their songs and “have requested that they cease all use immediately.”
A Trump campaign spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump, an avid music fan, has featured Rolling Stones songs at his rallies for months as part of a diverse soundtrack that includes Elton John, opera and classic rock songs. The Rolling Stones’ 1969 classic “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” was a popular song choice for his events.
2:10 p.m. Hillary Clinton is now 93 percent of the way to clinching the Democratic nomination. She lost Indiana on Tuesday, but split enough of the delegates with Bernie Sanders to move closer to the 2,383 delegates needed to win.
For the night, Sanders picked up 44 delegates while Clinton gained 38. One Indiana delegate remains to be allocated, pending final vote tallies. That means in primaries and caucuses to date, Clinton has 1,683 to Sanders’ 1,362. When including superdelegates, or party officials who can back any candidate, Clinton’s lead is much bigger.
She now has a total of 2,205 delegates, or 93 percent of the number needed to win, according to the AP count. Sanders has 1,401. Just 178 delegates short, Clinton remains on track to clinch the nomination by early June.
1:35 p.m. Make it a clean sweep for Donald Trump in Indiana.
The brash billionaire and presumptive GOP presidential nominee has won all 57 delegates at stake in Tuesday’s primary. He now has 85 percent of the delegates needed to win the Republican nomination for president. And with all of his rivals gone from the race, he should have no problem collecting the other 15 percent. The AP delegate count:
Ted Cruz: 565. John Kasich: 153. Needed to win: 1,237.
Bob Vander Plaats, an influential evangelical leader who backed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, says it’s “premature” to make a decision on whether he’ll throw his support behind Donald Trump. Vander Plaats says he could never support Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in the general election. But he says he needs to know who Trump will name as his running mate and what kind of judges he would appoint before he can make a decision on backing the presumptive GOP nominee. The Iowa-based Vander Plaats says that if Trump’s answers on those fronts aren’t sufficient, he’ll “look for another option” in the fall campaign. He specifically left open the possibility of backing a third-party candidate.
Vander Plaats says it’s a “wait-and-see moment with Mr. Trump.”
12:42 p.m. Seasoned Republican operative Ed Rollins is making his debut in Donald Trump’s presidential bid. Rollins, who was Ronald Reagan’s 1984 campaign manager, spoke on a conference call Wednesday with supporters of Great America, a super PAC that backs Trump. Rollins has signed on as a strategist for the group.
Rollins says the super PAC aims to help offset what he sees as a huge financial advantage for likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. “They’re licking their chops,” Rollins says of Clinton’s team. “They think they’re going to win this thing.”
Great America will likely conduct polls, collect opposition research and run television ads in the lead-up to Election Day, Rollins says. First, though, the group must raise money: As of the end of March, it was almost $700,000 in debt, fundraising documents show. Ben Carson, a prominent Trump ally, also spoke on the call – a signal that the billionaire businessman is more accepting of outside help from groups that during the primary contest he had called “corrupt.”
12:10 p.m. John Kasich plans to end his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, making Donald Trump the presumptive Republican nominee.
Three campaign officials who spoke to The Associated Press said the Ohio governor plans to announce his decision in a statement from his home state later Wednesday. The officials spoke anonymously because they are not authorized to disclose Kasich’s decision. Kasich’s decision to suspend his campaign comes after he failed to convert a win in his home state primary into momentum in the chaotic GOP campaign.
The move comes a day after one of his only remaining rivals, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, announced that he was suspending his campaign.
11:40 a.m. John Kasich has cancelled a press conference in Virginia and plans to make a statement from Columbus, a day after one of his last remaining rivals, Ted Cruz, ended his campaign. Kasich’s campaign is not providing details about what the Ohio governor plans to say in his statement later Tuesday, or on why he canceled his Virginia event. Kasich is facing increasing pressure to drop out of the race to clear the path for front-runner Donald Trump to win the nomination.
Kasich had planned fundraisers in the Washington, D.C., area Wednesday. He had planned to address reporters at Dulles Airport but his campaign says he is no longer going there.
11:35 a.m. One of the more vulnerable Senate Republicans New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte will support likely Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, but won’t endorse him. Liz Johnson, a spokeswoman for the senator, said in a statement Wednesday that Ayotte “plans to support the nominee” with no mention of Trump’s name.
Ayotte is locked in a tight race with New Hampshire Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan. Johnson said that Ayotte, who is a candidate, “hasn’t and isn’t planning to endorse anyone this cycle.”
Republicans hold a 54-46 advantage in the Senate, but with more GOP seats on the ballot in November, they are fighting to hold onto their majority.
10:35 a.m. One of Ted Cruz’s staunchest financial backers is signaling support for Donald Trump now that he is the presumptive Republican nominee. Mica Mosbacher writes in an email to The Associated Press that she is calling “on fellow conservatives to unite and support our new nominee Trump.”
Mosbacher was a key part of Cruz’s finance team. She is the widow of Bob Mosbacher, a Houston oilman who served as President George H.W. Bush’s Secretary of Commerce.
She says she supported her senator, Cruz, because she saw him as giving voice to the American people. Trump, she says, “also listened to the people.”
Cruz abruptly quit the race after Trump won a resounding victory over him in Indiana Tuesday night.
7:28 a.m. Donald Trump says he’s planning to accept more political contributions now that he’s the Republican Party’s likely presidential nominee. The billionaire businessman previewed his path forward Wednesday morning, a day after his chief rival, Ted Cruz, suspended his campaign.
Trump tells ABC’s “Good Morning America,” that he “probably will take small donations,” up to the legal contribution limits but will still contribute to his own campaign. He adds that he doesn’t “want anyone to have big influence over me.”
Trump often tells supporters that he’s funding his campaign largely from his own pockets, although he’s been accepting smaller donations for several months. He says he’s spent about $44 million so far of his own money. He needs much more, however, going forward. The price tag for a general election is likely around $1 billion. Trump also says he’s confident he “can unite much of” the Republican Party even though he doesn’t want the support of some Republican critics.
6:30 a.m. Virtually assured of the Republican presidential nomination, Donald Trump says he likely will “go the political route” in choosing a vice presidential running mate.
The real estate mogul says in a broadcast interview Wednesday that he’s “inclined” to prefer a No. 2 person on the ticket “who can help me get legislation passed.” He notes he already has business experience and tells MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” he wouldn’t want to have to resort to presidential executive orders to get things done. Trump also reveals he’ll be making a decision over the next week on how to fund a general election campaign. He says “I do love self-funding,” but adds that he’s thinking over his strategy and will have an answer soon.
“Do I want to sell a couple of buildings? I don’t really want to do that,” he said. But he said that he wouldn’t necessarily want a new source of money “for myself” but that the party needs to bolster its funding. He was asked if he would accept money from super PACs in the fall, although he has refused to do so thus far.
Senator Elizabeth Warren has taken to Twitter to attack what she calls presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s “toxic stew of hatred & insecurity.”
The Massachusetts Democrat issued a series of tweets Tuesday night as results from the Indiana GOP primary forced Texas Senator Ted Cruz from the race and left Trump as the overwhelming favorite for the nomination. Warren tweets that Trump has built his campaign on “racism, sexism and xenophobia” and that there’s more enthusiasm for him “among the leaders of the KKK than leaders of the political party he now controls.”
Warren says what happens next is “a character test for all of us – Republican, Democrat, and Independent.”
Warren has been mentioned by party insiders as a potential running mate for likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
5:30 a.m. Gov. John Kasich is not abandoning his quest for the White House in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory in Indiana. His campaign issued a statement on Facebook early Wednesday saying that the election results “are not going to alter Gov. Kasich’s campaign plans.”
The statement adds: “Our strategy has been and continues to be one that involves winning the nomination at an open convention. The comments from Trump, on the verge of winning in Indiana, heighten the differences between Governor Kasich and his positive, inclusive approach and the disrespectful ramblings from Donald Trump.”
Kasich has won just one primary his home state of Ohio and trails Trump by nearly 900 delegates.
Kasich pledged to stay in the race, with his campaign manager saying the governor would continue to “offer the voters a clear choice for our country.”