Reeling Cruz tries to survive Trump tide

Reeling Cruz tries to survive Trump tide
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Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzO'Rourke faces pressure from left on 'Medicare for all' O'Rourke not planning, but not ruling out big fundraisers O'Rourke: Being a white male not a disadvantage in 2020 Dem field MORE on Monday got into a confrontation with Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpJoint Chiefs chairman denies report that US is planning to keep 1K troops in Syria Kansas Department of Transportation calls Trump 'delusional communist' on Twitter Trump has privately voiced skepticism about driverless cars: report MORE supporters in Indiana as he struggles to avoid a defeat that could all but end his presidential candidacy.  

Cruz desperately needs to defeat Trump in Tuesday’s Hoosier State contest, but several polls show him falling behind, and the clash with the vociferous Trump backers, repeatedly broadcast on cable news, did not appear to play to his benefit. 

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Protesters mocked Cruz for being born in Canada, brought up his wife’s career as an investment banker and asked, “Where’s your Goldman Sachs jacket?”

One protester chided Cruz for calling on John Kasich to get out of the presidential race, saying Trump is certain to win the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination.

“You’ll find out tomorrow,” the man said, “Indiana don’t want you.”

After losses last week in five Northeastern primaries, Cruz insisted the race was moving to more favorable territory for him in Indiana. 

Yet two polls released on Sunday and Monday augured poorly for the Texas senator. Trump led by 15 points in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll released on Sunday. On Monday, a Gravis poll put the business mogul ahead by 17 points.

Cruz has played up the importance of Indiana, saying he relished the chance to go mano a mano with Trump. 

He agreed to a loose pact with Kasich, Ohio’s governor and the only other major candidate still in the race, whereby Kasich agreed not to campaign in Indiana in order to maximize the chances of stopping Trump. 

But Kasich urged his Indiana supporters to vote for him anyway, and there is no evidence from the latest polls that the approach is working. In fact, the NBC poll showed Republican voters in Indiana disapproving of the Cruz-Kasich pact 58 percent to 34 percent. 

Cruz has pulled out all the stops, even naming Carly Fiorina as his running mate last week in a bid to change the race’s momentum. 

The former Hewlett-Packard CEO, who mounted her own presidential bid earlier this year, has been on the campaign trail with Cruz, though she suffered an ignominious moment on Sunday when she fell off the stage during a rally in Lafayette, Ind.

By the next day, Trump was mocking the stumble. “By the way, she fell off the stage the other day. Did anybody see that?” he said during a rally in Carmel, Ind., late Monday afternoon. “And Cruz didn’t do anything. Even I would have helped her. It was the weirdest thing.” 

Cruz’s confrontation with the Trump supporters looked like another effort to change the game. He approached a group demonstrating outside his campaign stop in Marion, Ind., and attempted to reason with them, even as one man called him “Lyin’ Ted” to his face. 

“With all respect, Donald Trump is deceiving you, playing you for a chump,” Cruz told the Trump supporters. He also insisted the “mainstream media so desperately wants Donald Trump to be the nominee.”

Trump already has 996 delegates, according to The Associated Press’s delegate tracker. If Trump wins Indiana, he will be an odds-on favorite to accumulate the 1,237 delegates needed to win the GOP nomination by the time the final primaries are held on June 7. 

Indiana is crucial because it has 57 delegates. The statewide winner gets 30 delegates off the bat, while an additional three delegates are up for grabs on the same basis in each of Indiana’s nine congressional districts.

Cruz won the endorsement of Indiana’s governor, Mike Pence, late last week, but the governor also praised Trump when making that announcement. Even so, Pence has accompanied Cruz on the campaign trail, and the Texan launched a new TV ad featuring the governor on Monday. Declaring himself “a Reagan conservative,” Pence said at the conclusion of the ad that he would be voting for Cruz.

The Carmel event was the first of two Trump rallies on the eve of the primary, as the business mogul made his own push for victory. But his schedule also evinced a degree of confidence, including a Monday lunch with author Ed Klein. 

Klein, a controversial figure, is the author of negative books about Bill and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP lawmaker defends Chelsea Clinton after confrontation over New Zealand attacks Klobuchar: Race, gender should not be litmus tests for 2020 Dem nominee Kirsten Gillibrand officially announces White House run MORE, and the meeting sparked instant speculation that Trump was looking to load up on ammunition for a general election battle.

The businessman also announced that his primary-night event would be held at his headquarters, Trump Tower, in Manhattan.

Even some of Trump’s sternest critics now appear to be acknowledging that the odds favor his quest to become the GOP nominee. In a Fox Business Network interview on Monday, Karl Rove said the battle for the nomination would be “effectively over” if Trump were to win in Indiana.

Rove noted that Cruz himself has admitted as much before. Indeed, on Friday Cruz suggested the contest was “going to be decided” by Indiana. Two days later, however, he made a similar claim about California, which does not vote until June 7.

A Survey USA poll published Monday showed Trump leading Cruz by 34 points in California.