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Donald Trump wins Indiana in potential knockout blow

USA TODAY USA TODAY 3/05/2016 David Jackson
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump responds to a speech attacking his candidacy by former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney during a Trump campaign rally in Portland, Maine, March 3, 2016. © REUTERS/Joel Page Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump responds to a speech attacking his candidacy by former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney during a Trump campaign rally in Portland, Maine, March 3, 2016.

NEW YORK — Donald Trump easily won the Indiana primary on Tuesday, moving closer to the Republican presidential nomination as he called on Ted Cruz to exit the GOP race on a day in which the angry rivals described each other as unhinged liars.

In a victory tweet, the New York businessman noted that "Lyin' Ted" had considered Indiana a must-win state, and now, the Texas senator should "drop out of the race — stop wasting time & money."

Cruz, who had hoped for a rally that would help him force a contested convention in July, said earlier in the day he would continue campaigning, and argued that Trump is an unstable person who would drag Republicans down to defeat in November.

"Donald Trump is such a narcissist that Barack Obama looks at him and says, 'Dude, what's your problem?'" Cruz told reporters in Indiana.

The primary capped a remarkably angry campaign that on Tuesday included a suggestion by Trump that Cruz's father was somehow linked to Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of President John F. Kennedy.

Protesting the senior Cruz's criticism of him, Trump cited an (uncorroborated) report in The National Enquirer with a picture supposedly showing Rafael Cruz standing near Oswald on a street. "It's horrible," Trump told Fox News.

Cruz called Trump's claims "nuts" and "kooky," telling reporters that Trump "is utterly amoral — morality does not exist for him.” He called the GOP front-runner "a pathological liar" who "doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies."

Responding to what he called Cruz's "ridiculous outburst," Trump described "Lyin' Ted" as "a desperate candidate trying to save his failing campaign." He said the Texas senator "does not have the temperament to be president of the United States."

Ohio Gov. John Kasich pulled out of Indiana last week, vowing to take on Trump in upcoming states. In a memo sent after Trump's win, Kasich's chief strategist, John Weaver, said, "Our strategy has been and continues to be one that involves winning the nomination at an open convention."

Cruz had indicated that he will stay in the Republican race even with an Indiana loss. Before the polls even closed in the Hoosier State, the Cruz campaign announced he would campaign Wednesday in Nebraska and Washington, states holding primaries later this month. He has already campaigned in delegate-rich California, one of five states that close the primary season June 7.

As the Indiana primary approached, the Kasich and Cruz campaigns made a deal, of sorts, as part of a combined stop-Trump effort. While Kasich moved out of Indiana, Cruz agreed not to campaign against Kasich in future contests in Oregon and New Mexico.

Trump, meanwhile, is trying to unite Republicans behind his candidacy, even as he faces continued criticism from current and past rivals as well as a variety of "Never Trump" organizations.

Katie Packer, who chairs an anti-Trump group called the Our Principles PAC, indicated it would not give up despite the Indiana results, noting that Trump is still short of the delegate majority he needs.

"A substantial number of delegates remain up for grabs in this highly unpredictable year," she said, adding there is "more time for Trump to continue to disqualify himself in the eyes of voters -- as he did yet again today spreading absurd tabloid lies about Ted Cruz's father and the JFK assassination."

plans to speak Tuesday night from Trump Tower in Manhattan.

Indiana marks Trump's seventh in a row, a streak that began in his home state of New York on April 19. After winning five more northeastern states last week, Trump declared himself the "presumptive nominee." Cruz, who last defeated Trump in Wisconsin nearly a month ago, had high hopes for Indiana, a state with many conservative voters. But his campaign struggled in recent days. Former House speaker John Boehner, one of many GOP lawmakers who dislike him, described the Texas senator as "Lucifer in the flesh," while critics in the basketball-crazy Hoosier State mocked Cruz for describing a hoop as a "ring."

President Obama has stepped up his criticism of Trump, telling WMUR-TV of Manchester, N.H., that the outspoken businessman "is not somebody who, even within the Republican Party, can be considered equipped to deal with the problems of this office."

Referring to the November general election against the Democratic nominee, Obama said that a Trump nomination "would be good news for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.”

Cruz and Kasich are trying to prevent Trump from securing the majority of delegates he needs to win the nomination on the first ballot at the July convention in Cleveland. That would force more ballots in which delegates would not be bound to any candidate.

Needing 1,237 delegates to secure the nomination, Trump will now have more than 1,000 -- and remain more than 400 ahead of Cruz and more than 800 ahead of Kasich.

During his campaign in Indiana, Trump said neither of his opponents have a path to the nomination.

"They're never going to get there," Trump told backers in Carmel. "We are way over and way ahead of projection and we'll do it on the first ballot. But if we win Indiana, it's over."

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