INDIANAPOLIS — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz ended his presidential campaign after losing the Indiana primary to Donald Trump.
"From the beginning, I've said that I would continue on as long as there's a viable path to victory. Tonight, I'm sorry to say it appears that path has been foreclosed," Cruz said to shouts of "no" from the audience. "And so with a heavy heart but with boundless optimism for the long-term future of our nation, we are suspending our campaign. But hear me out, I am not suspending our fight for liberty."
The Cruz campaign bet big on Indiana, and suffered a crushing loss. He canvassed Indiana in the days leading up to the Hoosier State's primary akin to how he barnstormed Iowa. Cruz overcame late polls to defeat Trump in Iowa's caucus, but Trump prevailed in Indiana's open primary.
Cruz pulled out all the stops for Indiana, but it wasn't enough.
Following Trump's victory in New York, Cruz named Carly Fiorina as his running mate to turn the tide on negative attention from the press. He then touted a lukewarm endorsement from Gov. Mike Pence, and brought conservative radio host Glenn Beck, Utah Sen. Mike Lee, and Texas Rep. Louis Gohmert on his bus as he criss-crossed the state. He also appeared many times with his wife Heidi Cruz and his two daughters.
The senator made an agreement with Ohio Gov. John Kasich that allowed the Texan a one-on-one fight with Trump in the Hoosier State, but the pact backfired.
Cruz ignored the polls showing Trump's lead expanding, and told his supporters on the eve of the primary that the race was effectively tied.
The Texan insisted that a victory in the Hoosier State would go a long way toward blocking Trump from earning the delegates necessary to win the nomination. But voters who headed to the polls for Cruz on Tuesday already appeared to see the end was near.
"I think it's going to take a hell of a surprise for him to pull it off here," said Tom Atkins, after voting for Cruz in Indianapolis.
Atkins said if Cruz loses Indiana it may become time for the senator to consider dropping out.
"It depends on the delegate count really," Atkins said. "If Trump can't get to 1,237, then all bets are off. Go to the convention. I have no problem with a contested convention, they've produced some pretty good results in the past."
Many Cruz supporters from across Indiana, including Atkins, who spoke with the Washington Examiner rejected the Never Trump label, just as the state's governor did. While many let out a deep sigh, they noted that the Democrats vying for the nation would yield an even worse result.
Greg Ferguson, a Cruz volunteer in Indiana who knocked on doors for the senator, said the upcoming California primary makes him think Cruz may still have a path to the nomination. He said he cannot support any of the candidates besides Cruz in good conscience.
Attendees at Cruz's Indiana watch party in Indianapolis were eager to see him stay in the race. Linda Bond, a campaign volunteer who made calls for Cruz in Indiana, said it's important that he 'fight the good fight' and continue campaigning.
Asked if there was any point at which Cruz should consider exiting the race, Bond replied, "I don't think he should ever waver. We fight to the end."
Republican strategists had already begun counting Cruz out, however. Ford O'Connell, a veteran of the McCain-Palin campaign, said if Trump wins Indiana, there would be no stopping him.
"If he wins Indiana, it's a huge psychological dagger for Cruz and it shows that Trump now has momentum more than in just certain geographical locations," O'Connell said. "And if he has that, even though the rest of May is very hard for Trump and favors Cruz, like in Nebraska, it just seems that a third of the party, the more moderate folks, are sort of coming around to the idea that Trump's going to be the nominee."
After Cruz dropped out, his supporters appeared distraught but encouraged by his presidential campaign.
Tim Yocum, a Cruz supporter and Vermillion County commissioner, said he thought Cruz's exit saved the Republican Party from fracturing for good.
"He saved the establishment, but he also put them in their place because they ain't got control now. They was trying to figure, if we can hold this last card for this convention, then maybe we can stick who we want in to," Yocum said. "And he also kind of saved the party because we hopefully won't have that conflict at a brokered convention."
Yocum said he hoped Cruz would try to influence Trump to put a conservative justice on the Supreme Court, and he hoped to see the senator himself replace Scalia. What, if anything, Cruz may obtain from Trump by bowing out before the convention remains to be seen.