As Republicans in Indiana head to the polls Tuesday, Donald Trump is hoping to knock out rival [crscore]Ted Cruz[/crscore], who desperately needs a win to stay alive in the race.
Even supporters of Cruz acknowledge the Texas senator needs a victory in Indiana to stop Trump from reaching the 1,237 delegate threshold to win the nomination outright and force a contested Republican National Convention in July.
In recent days, Cruz has been doing everything he possibly can to energize his campaign and try to pull out a victory in Indiana — he struck a deal with Kasich campaign so he could face Trump one-on-one; he named Carly Fiorina as his running mate; and he secured the endorsement of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
But at an election eve rally in Indiana on Monday, Trump, who has been endorsed by former Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight, mocked the Cruz-Kasich alliance. (Kasich agreed not to spend resources in Indiana in return for Cruz doing the same in Oregon and New Mexico).
“Now they made this stupid deal,” Trump said. “I mean, anybody in business would not have made the deal. And by the way, since making the deal, their numbers tanked. It was stupid. It’s politicians making deals.”
According to the Real Clear Politics polling average, Trump leads Cruz by 9.3 points. The New York businessman has 42 percent, Cruz has 32.7 percent and Kasich has 15.8 percent.
Heading into Tuesday’s vote, Trump leads the delegate contest with 996 delegates, followed by Cruz’s 565 and Kasich’s 153 delegates.
Trump has won the last six primaries. There are 10 contests left, including California’s where 172 delegates will be up for grabs. In Indiana, 57 delegates are available, awarded winner-take-all statewide and by congressional district.
In perhaps the most entertaining part of Monday, Cruz made news in Marion, Indiana by engaging with a Trump supporter who repeatedly hurled insults back at the senator.
“Sir, with all respect, Donald Trump is deceiving you,” Cruz told the supporter. “He is playing you for a chump.”
The supporter repeatedly called Cruz “Lyin’ Ted” — the dismissive moniker coined by Trump — to his face. “Where’s your Goldman Sachs jacket? We know your wife works there,” the man said.