Sen. Ted Cruz, who despite an early victory in the Iowa caucus struggled to stop Donald Trump from cutting into his support from evangelical Christian voters, dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday.
Cruz lost the primary in Indiana on Tuesday, the latest in a string of defeats to the billionaire from New York, who considers himself the party's presumptive nominee.
"I've said that I will continue on as long as there is a viable path to victory. Tonight, I'm sorry to say that it appears that path has been foreclosed," Cruz said at a rally in Indianapolis.
U.S. & World
"We gave it everything we've got, but the voters chose another path," he continued, vowing to continue to fight for liberty, a constant theme of his campaign.
Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich had battled to be the alternative to Trump. Kasich said in a statement Tuesday night that he continues to seek the nomination at an open convention.
"Gov. Kasich will remain in the race unless a candidate reaches 1,237 bound delegates before the Convention," his statement said.
But the head of the Republican party indicated for the first time Tuesday night that the establishment was finally ready to back Trump.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus tweeted that Trump will be the party's presumptive nominee.
"We all need to unite and focus on defeating @HillaryClinton," Priebus said.
Reversing course after weeks of calling Cruz "Lyin' Ted," Trump said Tuesday night that the senator has "an amazing future" and congratulated him on the race he ran.
"I don't know if he likes me or if he doesn't like me, but he is one hell of a competitor. He is a tough, smart guy," Trump said in a speech at Trump Tower.
Cruz based his campaign on appealing to the most hardline conservatives and evangelical Christians. He outlasted over a dozen other Republican contenders, but despite winning 10 states, including his home state of Texas, Cruz was losing ground to Trump by March.
When an outright win proved out of reach, Cruz turned to a strategy of forcing a contested convention — preventing his rival from amassing the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. But after Indiana, Trump was less than 200 delegates shy of doing so, with California among the states left to vote.
Cruz had expected to leverage his role as a Washington outsider — where he is known for stalling legislation and insulting other members of the Senate and where he planned to shut down the government his first year in office in a protest over Obamacare.
Cruz was popular among voters who described themselves as very conservative but Trump outdid him with white evangelical voters, including in the Indiana primary, according to NBC News exit polls.
And in the contest for the nomination, he was quickly overshadowed by Trump’s outsized personality and non-political standing.
On Tuesday morning, Cruz attacked Trump as "a braggadocious, arrogant buffoon." He didn't mention Trump in his concession speech Tuesday night.
Cruz is unpopular among his fellow senators and others in the Republican establishment, some of whom worked quietly on behalf of Sen. Marco Rubio, who dropped out of the race in March. Afterward, the so-called "Never Trump" movement turned to Cruz, but some in the Senate still only managed lackluster endorsements.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, himself a former candidate, called Cruz a reliable conservative he endorsed over Trump, but said Cruz was "certainly not my preference."
Cruz was born in Canada to an American-born mother and a father from Cuba. The legitimacy of his candidacy was challenged, particularly by Trump who threatened to go to court.