INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — In a setback for Donald Trump, Indiana’s governor is endorsing chief rival Ted Cruz before the state’s critical Republican primary contest.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence will announce his support for Cruz on Friday afternoon, according to a Republican official with direct knowledge of the endorsement. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to pre-empt the announcement.
Cruz is desperately seeking momentum in his fight to block Trump from claiming the delegate majority before the GOP’s national convention in July. A Trump win in Indiana on Tuesday would all but ensure he becomes the presumptive nominee.
Trump swept all five Northeastern primary elections earlier in the week and enjoys a massive delegate advantage over his Republican rivals. Cruz has been mathematically eliminated from earning the 1,237 delegate majority, but insists he can block Trump from the majority as well, as the 2016 contest shifts to “friendlier terrain” in the West and Midwest. The Texas senator declared he is “all in” on Indiana.
Cruz said earlier Friday he would “enthusiastically welcome” Pence’s support.
“The country is depending on Indiana to bring some sober common sense,” Cruz told reporters in Indianapolis, “instead of going down a rash course of action that is endangering this country.”
“We’re barnstorming the state,” he added after the first of four scheduled Indiana appearances on Friday.
Pence, who faces his own re-election this year, had been under enormous pressure from pro- and anti-Trump factions. Although he is more closely aligned with Cruz, he risks voter backlash in the fall if Tuesday’s primary contest shows Indiana is filled with Trump voters.
Trump said this week that he had met the governor and asked for his backing.
“I don’t think he’ll endorse anybody, actually — and he may endorse us,” Trump told CNN on Wednesday. “I don’t know. He’s a great guy. He’s become — you know, he’s done a very, very good job as governor and he’s a great guy. I don’t know if we’ll get his endorsement. I don’t know.”
Trump added that he didn’t think Pence would endorse Cruz.
Yet Cruz and conservatives who support him have pressed Pence from the other direction.
“Every day he sits on the sidelines is another day in which he could have made a difference,” Republican columnist Erick Erickson wrote Thursday on the website The Resurgent. “He has not used his influence in the conservative movement to rally against Trump.”