LOS ANGELES, April 27, 2016 — One week after winning his home state of New York, Donald Trump swept all five Acela Primary state primaries in convincing fashion. Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut and Rhode Island all gave Trump between 54 and 64% of the vote and a combined 105 of 111 delegates up for grabs.
After the results came in, Trump declared himself the presumptive Republican nominee. While Trump is the only GOP candidate who can realistically reach the 1,237 delegates required to win the nomination, he can still be blocked from reaching that threshold.
Trump’s victories in New York and in the “Acela Express” states were clearly landslides. In the process, he gave his only serious rival, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, a royal beating. Cruz even finished behind Ohio Governor John Kasich in four of the five Acela contests. Kasich still remains far behind Florida Senator Marco Rubio in delegates despite Rubio’s dropping out of the primaries almost six weeks ago.
Trump won the night, but he may wish to hold off on any declarations of victory. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich declared himself the presumptive GOP nominee in 2012. 10 days later, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney stormed past Gingrich on the way to winning that year’s GOP nomination.
Trump’s victories in New York and the Acela states were already factored in to most delegate calculations. He won these contests, but he was supposed to. Northeastern liberals dominate these states. Even many Republicans in this area are fairly moderate when compared to party members elsewhere.
It is one thing to win in areas Democrats will likely dominate in the general election. It is quite another to win in America’s heartland, however. The heartland—”flyover country” — is Normal America, and Trump’s last foray into Normal America went very badly. The Wisconsin primary on April 5 was a major victory for Cruz, while Trump was given a heaping serving of humble pie.
On May 3, the race shifts to Indiana. The stakes are simple. If Trump wins Indiana, Cruz is finished. If Cruz wins, he stays on pace to block any candidate from winning the nomination before the July GOP Convention in Cleveland.
Trump will have legendary basketball coach and Hoosier hero Bobby Knight campaigning with him leading up to the Indiana contest. Cruz will have the advantage on social issues that hurt him in the Northeast. In Wisconsin, Cruz won the endorsement of beloved conservative Governor Scott Walker. Indiana Governor Mike Pence is equally beloved in conservative circles. His endorsement will be highly sought after along with that of former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels. Both Pence and Daniels have been mentioned as future presidential candidates themselves.
If Cruz loses Indiana, he will be out of excuses. Trump will have truly won everywhere. If Trump loses the state, Cruz will continue to be seen as the champion of the conservative voting bloc. Social conservatives in particular have doubts about Trump due to his comments about Planned Parenthood and transgendered bathrooms. A win for Cruz in Indiana might move more delegates in his direction if Trump can’t sew things up.
Trump supporters have a valid complaint about the goalposts constantly being moved. No matter how much Trump wins, it is never enough. The bottom line is that in terms of what Trump needs to do, he has not won enough. He has only held serve. Conversely, Cruz Wisconsin win was also holding serve. Neither one has delivered the knockout blow.
Unfortunately for Trump, he chose the wrong presidential election year to run as a Republican. Usually it is the GOP nomination that is predetermined while Democrats have a truly democratic primary contest. But 2016 has reversed the roles.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defeated Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in four of five Acela contests plus New York. But this is irrelevant, given that the Democrat nomination is just a show. Clinton was the predetermined anointed choice of the super delegates. The race has long been stacked in her favor with significant help from the Democrat National Committee. The Republicans for once are not promoting the person who is next in line. They are finally having a real primary.
The result is that Trump has won the most contests but Cruz has won enough to possibly force a contested convention this summer.
Normal America will likely decide things. Indiana will show whether Trump can capture the heartland or if Normal America is Cruz country. Unlike New York and the Acela states, Indiana really is for all the political marbles.