Triumphant Donald Trump claimed victory in the Republican presidential contest on Tuesday night, after Ted Cruz dropped out of the race following his defeat in the Indiana primary.
The billionaire, now virtually assured of being the GOP’s standard-bearer for the general election in November, called the Texas senator ‘a tough, smart competitor’ during a 20-minute victory speech.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus called Trump the ‘presumptive GOP nominee’ and urged party-wide unity after the property mogul cruised to victory over Cruz in Indiana by a 53 to 37 percent margin.
Casting himself as a lifelong fighter in the bruising world of New York real estate, Trump said he had met ‘some of the most incredible competitors that I have ever competed against, right here, in the Republican Party.’
‘Ted Cruz – I don’t know if he likes me, or if he doesn’t like me, but he is one hell of a competitor,’ he said. ‘And he has got an amazing future.’
Flanked by three of his adult children and their spouses, Trump said he had ‘never been though anything like this, but it’s a beautiful thing to watch and a beautiful thing to behold.
‘We’re going after Hillary Clinton,’ he said, looking ahead to what will be an expensive and protracted fall.
‘She will not be a great president. She will not be a good president. She will be a poor president.’
He said Cruz was among a group of his former competitors – including endorsers Chris Christie and Ben Carson – whom he hoped would remain engaged in the party, even as they licked their wounds from a vicious season of insults and attack ads.
‘We’ve got to keep them totally involved, because we’re going to win. We’re going to win in November. And we’re going to win big.’
‘What Ted did is really a very brave thing to do,’ he said of the Texan’s decision to resist prolonging the inevitable by bowing out instead of subjecting the GOP to a lengthy floor fight during July’s convention in Cleveland.
We want to bring unity to the Republican party. We have to bring unity.’
Donald Trump Jr. said afterward that he didn’t believe his father had spoken with Cruz after his opponent announced he was stepping aside.
He said he was with the candidate when the news of Cruz’s withdrawal filtered in to the campaign over social media.
No words were spoken, he said, but the elder Trump made a face that he immediately recognized.
‘It was sort of that look of, “Wow, we did it”,’ he said.
‘I think we assumed everyone was going to be in all the it to the end,’ Donald Jr. told reporters.
‘It’s surreal. It’s incredible to see it. I couldn’t be more proud of tmy father.’
Trump now faces a period of reconciliation within the GOP.
‘I want to thank and congratulate the Republican National Committee and [chairman] Reince Priebus, who I just talked to,’ he said during his speech.
‘It’s not an easy job when you have 17 egos, and I guess he’s down to one.’
‘He’s done an amazing job and I think we’re going to see something really, really fantastic.’