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Indiana's primary election won't have much national impact

Indiana's presidential primary could draw some national attention, although Tuesday's results will have no bearing on the selection of nominees.

There certainly won't be national news on the scale of eight years ago, when Donald Trump crushed the last chance of the “Stop Trump” movement by soundly defeating Ted Cruz and winning all 57 delegates up for grabs in the state's Republican primary were in the game.

Now it will just be a look at the percentages in the Republican primary and an analysis of what, if anything, it means for November if Nikki Haley gets a significant protest vote.

While both Trump and President Joe Biden long ago won more than enough delegates for the nomination, their names will be on the ballot in Indiana on Tuesday – Biden was unopposed in the Democratic primary; Trump was on the Republican side along with Haley, who gave up the campaign two months ago.

Haley qualified to vote in Indiana before she was defeated by Trump in the Super Tuesday primary on March 5, suspending her campaign.

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With Haley no longer in the race, votes for her in the Republican primary are now seen as a sign of dissatisfaction with Trump and a sign that he may defect from him in the fall.

The recent Republican primary results in Pennsylvania were seen as worrisome news for Trump, as 155,000 voters – 16.5% of Republican turnout – declined to vote for their presumptive nominee and instead chose Haley.

It seems unlikely that Haley will win such a high percentage in Indiana, where Trump was so popular with Hoosier Republicans in his two presidential elections.

Even if it did, it wouldn't mean as much as the election in Pennsylvania, a key state in determining the winner in the Electoral College. A Republican defection could be the deciding factor there. However, Indiana is listed as a certainty in the fall in all forecasts like the Trump column.

Signs of defection here would not be taken as an indication of a monumental fall upset in Indiana, but rather as an indication that Trump's base may not be as solid nationally if it slips even in Indiana.

What if Haley's total isn't in double digits or barely reaches that number? That would lead to an analysis that Trump's base remains solid.

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No matter what happens in Indiana on Tuesday, nationally it will be small potatoes compared to the 2016 presidential primary, actually just potato skins.

Republican primary voters in Indiana decided Trump would be the nominee. Cruz found himself in a “must win” situation to stop Trump from a first-round victory at the Republican National Convention and keep alive fading hopes of a “Stop Trump” victory in a brokered, multi-ballot convention.

Cruz pulled out all the stops, even striking a deal in which another candidate, John Kasich, would stop campaigning in Indiana and let Cruz run more strongly against Trump. Cruz also received an endorsement from then-Gov. Mike Pence.

Polls showed Trump ahead, but not by a large margin. Trump wasn't so sure of his victory, complaining that Indiana's electoral system was “rigged” because he couldn't control his Hoosier delegates in a second convention election.

Results: Cruz, needing a big win to remain viable, did not win a single delegate. Trump won so much across the state that he was able to capture all 57 delegates. Cruz gave up. There was no longer any way to stop Trump. The nomination has been decided.

And Pence, whose support for Cruz had been muted and not damaging for Trump, ended up running for vice president to appeal to evangelical voters.

In 2020, the traditional May primary was postponed to June 2 due to the pandemic. Trump, then president, faced only symbolic resistance from Bill Weld, a former governor of Massachusetts. Trump received 91.9% of the Republican vote. If he gets close to that percentage on Tuesday, Trump will be buoyed by the results, not alarmed.

Jack Colwell is a columnist for The Tribune. Write to him via The Tribune or by email at [email protected].

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