Indiana’s stranger-than-fiction primary: Cruz attack on political correctness fails
The stranger-than-fiction Indiana primary has knocked Republican hopeful Ted Cruz out of the race and given Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders a nod to hang in a little longer. But political commentators agree: The 2016 presidential contest is now a two-way race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Clinton now has 2,220 delegates –93 percent of what she needs to secure the Democratic nomination. Trump has 1,048 –85 percent of what he needs to secure the Republican nomination.
In Indiana, both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns were headed up by gay people.
Openly gay politico Peter Hanscom led the Clinton campaign. He organized business support this year for efforts to expand laws prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people.
And openly gay Carli Stevenson led the Sanders effort in Indiana. She has been involved in communications work for unions and supported the move by the Indiana-Kentucky AFSCME chapter to move its convention to another state last year after Indiana passed an anti-gay “religious freedom” law.
Sanders took 53 percent of the Democratic vote in Indiana Tuesday; Clinton took 47 percent.
According to the Washington Post, 60 percent of Democratic voters who identified as “liberal” supported Sanders.
Neither Clinton nor Sanders gave speeches directed to Indiana voters Tuesday night. But Sanders told Associated Press that he will continue his bid for the Democratic nomination.
‘‘I know that the Clinton campaign thinks this campaign is over. They’re wrong,’’ Sanders told AP in a telephone interview. ‘‘Maybe it’s over for the insiders and the party establishment but the voters today in Indiana had a different idea.’’
The comment was in stark contrast to last week, when Clinton won four out of five primaries. Then, Sanders said his campaign would be more focused on the party platform and would begin laying off hundreds of campaign staff.
Cruz takes a beating
Cruz’s announcement Tuesday night that he was pulling out of the race was a surprise to some, but it was also the culmination of a week-long string of disasters for his campaign.
On the Thursday before the primary, transgender Olympic legend Caitlin Jenner posted a video on Facebook, showing that she entered a Trump hotel bathroom for women. She ended the post by saying, “By the way Ted, no one got molested.”
Cruz had used his primary events and an attack ad against Trump in Indiana to pound home a message in support of North Carolina’s new law banning transgender people from using a public restroom that corresponds to their gender identity. On CNN’s State of the Union Sunday, Cruz doubled down, suggesting the law was needed to prevent people from trying to use a bathroom based on “whatever you feel like at the given moment.”
“This is the height of political correctness for Donald Trump to say, ‘Yes, let grown men in the bathroom with little girls.’”
Trump never said that. He said he thought people should be able to “use the bathroom they feel is appropriate.” (He also said he thought it was a matter for each state to decide.)
On Meet the Press Sunday, the Cruz campaign began a steep spiral downward into chaos, as Cruz was asked to respond to former Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s characterization of him as “Lucifer in the flesh” and a “miserable son of a bitch.” Also on Sunday, many observers thought he seemed to deliberately turn his back on his running mate, Carly Fiorina, when she accidentally slipped off a rally stage. On Monday, he was penned in by a circle of reporters as a group of grinning Trump supporters rudely confronted him with “Indiana don’t want you” and “Are you Canadian?” On Tuesday, he was pranked by a Trump supporter who asked for a handshake then withdrew his hand and called Cruz a “fish monster.” And then he had to respond to Trump’s discussion on Fox News Tuesday morning of an article in the National Enquirer claiming Cruz’s father associated with Lee Harvey Oswald just prior to the assassination of President Kennedy.
Cruz seemed to start coming apart: He engaged in an unusually harsh rant against Trump, calling him a “pathological liar” and “narcissist” and said he is “utterly amoral” and “mindless.”
“Yes, my dad killed JFK, he’s secretly Elvis, and Jimmy Hoffa is buried in his backyard,” said Cruz, mocking Trump.
Kasich hangs in, then drops out
Ohio Governor John Kasich did not campaign heavily in Indiana, in part because of an agreement he and Cruz had to divide up the remaining primaries in order to have a better chance of stopping Trump’s march to the nomination. But Kasich, too, had to handle an LGBT-related question this week. While Kasich was taking questions during an appearance April 29 in San Francisco, an audience member told him, “Gay people are human beings and not a lifestyle choice. Please respond without prayer being an answer.”
Kasich responded that he doesn’t believe in discrimination but thinks “there is a balance, however, between discrimination and people’s religious liberties.”
“I think we should just try to, like, take a chill pill, relax, and try to get along with one another a little bit better instead of trying to write some law to solve a problem that doesn’t frankly exist in big enough numbers to justify more lawmaking.” The response was similar to ones he’s given on the campaign trail in other states, when asked about gay marriage or North Carolina’s bathroom laws.
He also said he thinks some people are “probably” born gay.
“But I don’t see any reason to hurt you or to discriminate [against] you or make you feel bad or make you feel like a second-class citizen,” said Kasich. “I don’t think that’s right. So let’s just, like, respect one another a little bit more, tolerate each other’s individual beliefs. And I’m not going to sign any law in Ohio that is going to create discrimination against anybody.”
Kasich’s campaign said Tuesday night the governor would continue campaigning at least until Trump secures the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. But on Wednesday morning, the campaign said Kasich would suspend his campaign later in the day.