By Jim Ellis
May 5, 2016 — Speculation as to whether the Republicans would host their first contested, or brokered, presidential nominating convention since the 1940s ended when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) suspended his presidential campaign after a bruising loss in Indiana.
Though the party nomination is still not officially, mathematically clinched, and won’t be for some time, Cruz’s departure followed a day later by Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) as an active candidate, leaves Donald Trump a solid month to campaign against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, boxing her in from the right while she must continue to court her party’s left base in order to become the nominee while the Democratic race still is ongoing. It will be an important period for Trump, since he will have a distinct short-term strategic advantage.
Indiana, as Trump has been saying since his major victory in the eastern regional primary April 26, proved to be definitive. The new unofficial nominee racked up a 53-37-7 percent victory over Cruz and Kasich, and possibly scored a backdoor winner-take-all result with a sweep of the statewide vote and possibly all nine Indiana congressional districts.
The CDs, which produce three delegates apiece for the candidate placing first in the particular domain, are going at least eight strong for Trump. The 3rd District (Rep. Marlin Stutzman-R) was not fully reported at this writing and Trump led Sen. Cruz here by only 926 votes. If he holds the 3rd, Trump will have secured a winner-take-all 57 delegates, far beyond the 39 he needed to establish a first ballot track.
For the Democrats, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) again scored an upset win over Hillary Clinton. Sanders recorded a 53-471q win before the Indiana Democratic electorate, but did little to close the delegate gap between he and the former First Lady and US Senator. Ironically, Sen. Sanders is now the one claiming that he could do well enough in the closing states to force a contested Democratic convention.
The claim could only happen if he can convince enough Democratic Super Delegates to change their minds and either support him or vote present on the first roll call. In a two-person race, denying one of the contenders a majority can only happen if enough delegates were to abstain for the express purpose of forcing multiple roll calls. The realistic chances of this happening, however, are almost non-existent.
Even though she lost yet another primary, Clinton still achieved her delegate acquisition goal. She requires fewer than 20 of the outstanding delegates in the remaining 13 states and territories to clinch victory. Even finishing six points behind Sanders in the Indiana popular vote, it is conceivable that Clinton could still walk away with 46 delegates versus Sanders’ 44, while two remain uncommitted. In the pledged delegate category, Sanders held a 44-39 Hoosier State lead, but seven Super Delegates voting for Clinton would put her over the top. Either way, she more than achieved her delegate quota despite losing.
Indiana Primary Results
Rep. Todd Young (R-IN-9) exceeded expectations, trouncing his congressional colleague 67-33 percent to win the open US Senate nomination. Rep. Young now faces former Rep. Baron Hill (D-IN-9), and begins the new general election as a solid favorite to hold the seat for the GOP. Sen. Dan Coats (R) is retiring.
In the congressional races, the seven challenged incumbents all survived minor primary opponents. Indianapolis Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN-7), capturing 86 percent of his Democratic primary vote, was the state’s top incumbent vote-getter. Northwest Indiana Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-IN-1) attracted 80 percent of his Democratic primary vote.
The strongest Republican was Rep. Luke Messer (D-IN-6) who notched a 78 percent win. Representatives Jackie Walorski (R-IN-2), Todd Rokita (R-IN-4), and Susan Brooks (R-IN-5) each recorded identical 69 percent victory margins. Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN-8) was close behind them with 65 percent in his southwestern Indiana GOP district primary.
In the two open districts, the early polling proved exactly right. In the Ft. Wayne anchored 3rd CD, state Sen. Jim Banks (R), with outside help from the conservative Club for Growth, defeated rancher Kip Tom, state Sen. Elizabeth Brown, and three others. The top percentages were 34-31-25 percent. Sen. Banks will now be the prohibitive favorite to hold the seat in the general election.
In Rep. Young’s open 9th District, as predicted, businessman Trey Hollingsworth, who just recently moved to Indiana from Tennessee, captured the Republican nomination, 33-25-22 percent, over state Sen. Erin Houchin and Attorney General Greg Zoeller. Hollingsworth spent well over $1.3 million of his own money to win the nomination.
Though the 9th is a relatively reliable Republican district, the big-spending new GOP nominee could be vulnerable in his race against Monroe County Commissioner Shelli Yoder who won the Democratic nomination. Taking only one-third of the vote in a crowded field and actually being from Tennessee, the Democrats may feel Hollingsworth is vulnerable to a more defined local candidate, meaning this contest may develop into a sleeper race.