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Trump looks to Indiana to trounce Cruz

dpadpa 3/05/2016 Michael Donhauser and Anne K. Walters

US Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump is hoping to force his rival Ted Cruz out of the race with a resounding win in the Indiana primary.

The Republican primary in the Midwestern state of Indiana could be decisive in the showdown between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz for the conservative party's nomination in the US presidential elections in November.

"If we win Indiana, it's over," Trump declared at a rally in the state on Tuesday as he hopes to notch a victory to buttress growing expectations that he is the centre-right party's inevitable nominee.

Cruz meanwhile has been painting Indiana as a battleground for the soul of the party and denouncing Trump's style and substance.

"The people of Indiana are the heartland of this country, and we have a choice - we have a choice about our national character; who we will be," Cruz told reporters.

The state would seem to be fertile ground for Cruz, who has received good results in other Midwestern states, and the Texas senator had at one point pulled close to Trump in Indiana polling.

But now Trump leads by more than 9 percentage points in an average of opinion surveys by website Real Clear Politics.

Some surveys give him a double-digit lead, with an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll giving the billionaire businessman an edge of 15 percentage points.

The populist Trump has turned his very wealth into a selling point with many voters.

"He is funding himself [in the campaign], no one can buy him," Indiana resident Debbie Parson, 62, told DPA. "He doesn't have to sell himself out to corporate businesses."

The third remaining Republican presidential candidate, Ohio Governor John Kasich, agreed last month not to invest resources in the state in what was touted at the time as an agreement between Cruz and Kasich to better take on Trump.

Trump had declared himself the "presumptive nominee" after winning primaries last week in five northeastern states. Despite a strong plurality, he remains well short of the majority - 1237 delegates - needed to win the nomination at the party's July convention.

Cruz and Kasich are counting on keeping Trump short of that magic number to force a so-called contested convention, in which delegates are free to pick any candidate they chose if no one earns the majority of the delegates outright.

Trump has 956 pledged delegates to Cruz's 546 and Kasich's 153, according to a tally by The New York Times.

Trump is a political novice, which his supporters now hail.

"I think the American people are sick and tired of lying politicians, and he is not a politician," Indiana voters Bill Parson, 46, said.

"The problem with politicians in the US is that once they get elected, their whole goal in life is to get re-elected."

Commentators Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley, using Indiana's esoteric nickname, wrote last week: "The Hoosier State primary on May 3 is ground zero for the anti-Trump forces."

If Trump wins Indiana, he could be on pace to achieve a majority of delegates, they said.

Cruz however has vowed to stay in the race even if he falls short in Indiana, where 57 delegates are up for grabs.

"I am in for the distance, as long as we have a viable path to victory, I am competing to the end," he said.

Cruz last week named former Hewlett-Packard boss Carly Fiorina as his vice presidential running mate, in an unusual move designed to widen his support. He also secured the coveted endorsement of Indiana Governor Mike Pence.

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