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With Cruz Out And Trump A 'Presumptive Nominee,' What's Next For GOP?

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Let's listen to a progression of views held by critics of Donald Trump.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Sure, they said he was leading the primary race. But he seemed to have a ceiling - about 20 percent of the Republican vote. Later, that was revised upward to 25 percent. Maybe he could get 30.

INSKEEP: And then he started eliminating rivals. When he knocked Jeb Bush from the race, Bush funder James Wareham told us he was angry.

JAMES WAREHAM: And you have Bozo the Braggart from New York who is not my guy or most right-thinking people's guy. And I don't see any chance at all that Donald Trump serves as president.

INSKEEP: As Trump outlasted Marco Rubio, Florida lobbyist Mac Stipanovich talked of a third-party movement.

MAC STIPANOVICH: There'll be front-runners who will join Trump, particularly if he wins the nomination. There always are. But I would kind of quote the Bible on that, for what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?

MARTIN: And in recent days, it became clear. Trump's ceiling was something over 50 percent. And Republican hedge fund manager Anthony Scaramucci said he was done supporting other candidates.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: I'm a team-playing Republican. I'm hoping that whatever soreness he's inflicted upon others, people will put that aside and they will become team oriented and coalesce around him.

INSKEEP: Now, last night, Trump's closest rival, Ted Cruz, suspended his campaign after losing Indiana badly. NPR's Sarah McCammon has covered this all, this dramatic campaign. She's on the line. Hi, Sarah.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What's it been like to watch the Republican Party come to grips with where the voters seem to be taking them?

MCCAMMON: I think what we just heard is a good indication of it. You know, as I've been out on the campaign trail for the last many months talking to Republican voters, I met, essentially, two major groups - those who love Trump from the get go said he was speaking for them, and those who said, you know, I like a lot of things he's saying. He's talking about some important issues, but I'm really worried about his tone. I'm worried about his temperament.

And over time, as the other options have fallen away one by one by one, I'm meeting a lot of Republican voters who now say - among that group who was not sold on Trump either - I don't know what I'm going to do or he'd be better than a Democrat. So that's kind of the lay of the land there.

MARTIN: OK, stick with us, Sarah McCammon. We're going to hear now from NPR's Sam Sanders, who was at Ted Cruz's primary night party.

SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: News of Ted Cruz's defeat in Indiana broke last night right about when his watch party started. But Kathleen Sawtell and Alex Echeverria said they still wanted Cruz to stay in the race.

KATHLEEN SAWTELL: A little disappointed, but I don't think it's the end of the road.

ALEX ECHEVERRIA: He's still here. All those big names like Jeb Bush and Scott Walker are gone. But he's still here. So I think he'll go until the end.

SANDERS: Jeff Willenzik said he wanted Cruz to stay in too and change the tone of his campaign.

JEFF WILLENZIK: It does seem like recently he's kind of shifted more towards, you know, perhaps a little bit of desperation.

SANDERS: People waited an hour and a half for Cruz to take the stage and say something reassure them. But when Cruz finally got to talking, Sanford Horn knew something was up.

SANFORD HORN: I could tell by the look on his face when he came out, and the tone of the beginning of his speech, I knew it was over.

SANDERS: Ted Cruz dropped out of the race.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TED CRUZ: We are suspending our campaign.

SANDERS: Up until that point, this was still a hopeful party. But it quickly became a political funeral. So many tears, everywhere. Here's Linda Bond.

LINDA BOND: I've been working in the Republican Party for 32 years. I have always gotten behind whoever won. This is the first time ever I will not be able to do that.

SANDERS: For Bond, Cruz's defeat was about more than Ted Cruz.

So how are you feeling right now?

BOND: Sad, hurt, hurt by Americans.

SANDERS: How so?

BOND: I believe that they had an opportunity of a lifetime and instead gave into anger and emotion instead of thought.

SANDERS: Kathleen Sawtell said she couldn't see how Donald Trump would pull the GOP together. But she also said he's surprised her before.

SAWTELLE: I didn't think that he could be a Republican, but here we are. So we'll see what the next couple of months hold.

SANDERS: People stuck around, the way you sometimes do after a funeral. Some held each other and cried. Others stayed near the bar. As the crowd finally thinned, some faced the flags behind the podium and sang the national anthem.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER")

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing) And the home of the brave.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: God bless America.

SANDERS: And a few yelled out 2020...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: 2020.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: 2020.

SANDERS: ...Suggesting another Cruz run for president down the road. So you could see last night as Ted Cruz's political funeral. But his supporters haven't rolled out a second life just yet.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Sam Sanders with a little reminder there that the melody of "The Star-Spangled Banner" was once a drinking song. NPR's Sarah McCammon is still with us. Who, Sarah, ultimately were Ted Cruz's people, his constituency?

MCCAMMON: Steve, his strongest base was always evangelicals, Christian conservatives. They rallied around him in Iowa, gave him that first important win there. He also had a fair amount of libertarian and tea party support. Those are all important bases within the GOP. And he started picking up some of the establishment support as other candidates fell away and sort of set himself up as an alternative to Donald Trump.

But, you know, Steve, the irony of this year is that Ted Cruz started out as an outsider, running against the Washington establishment and was overwhelmed by the ultimate outsider. So his challenge has been maintaining that outsider persona, that message, but at the same time trying to marshal establishment support to back him.

INSKEEP: Is he going to run again?

MCCAMMON: It sounds that way. You know, he has throughout his campaign referenced Ronald Reagan as an icon. A lot of Republicans do that, but this is a huge focal point, a culmination of many of his stump speeches, talking about Reagan's presidency as a time of renewal.

Well, remember, Reagan ran in 1976 and lost the nomination before winning it in 1980 and becoming president. He hearkened back to that last night. And it sure sounds like he's thinking about four years from now.

MARTIN: So to be continued. NPR's Sarah McCammon. Sarah, stick with us.

We're going to turn now to a supporter of Donald Trump. Congressman Tom Marino represents Pennsylvania's 10th District in the central and northeast parts of the state. He was one of the first members of Congress to endorse Donald Trump. Welcome back to the program, Congressman.

TOM MARINO: Thank you very much.

MARTIN: I imagine you're feeling pretty good this morning. Is it time for the naysayers to get behind your candidate?

MARINO: It is. But I think that will take a couple of weeks, at least. You know, when someone is as dedicated and devoted to a candidate as the woman that I just heard a little bit ago, some wounds have to heal. But the Republican Party will coalesce and win this election.

MARTIN: The wounds are deep, though, Congressman. How does Donald Trump change his rhetoric and start to heal those wounds?

MARINO: I think you saw somewhat, last night in his tone, in his demeanor, he realizes that the campaign, as far as the nomination, is pretty much over. And he will have to pivot, as he has been when I've been with him. And he's been making speeches on what he is going to do for the American people. He's certainly going to have to pivot to women. Women are critical in the election. Those who vote are 51 percent females. And he has some work to do there.

INSKEEP: So how does someone pivot to women. If you're Donald Trump and you've said what Donald Trump has said, do you change your rhetoric? Do you change your tone? Do you actually change what you stand for? What is he going to do?

MARINO: I don't think you change what you stand for. You change the approach by which you address people. You make it known that women are going to play a major part in his cabinet. He's going to address the family needs because no matter what party we're talking about, women - in particular, mothers - are concerned about what's going to happen with their family, how their children are going to be protected. So you'll see moves like that made.

INSKEEP: I want to ask, though. Donald Trump in recent weeks has veered between saying I want to unify the party and going back to insulting people and quoting the National Enquirer, as he did just yesterday, as a matter of fact. Do you think he even wants to unite the Republican Party, really?

MARINO: Yes, I do. He wants to do that. Look, it's - it was a campaign for the primary. And those of faint heart don't realize that the mood changes right after the nominee is selected. You saw a little of what Sen. Cruz had to say. He was very gentlemanly - certainly what Donald Trump had to say.

And you know of other candidates that are going to be - former candidates that are coming around to get the party together. It's essential. Americans - I don't care if they're Republicans, Democrats or Independents - they're sick and tired of being sick and tired of the way Washington is run. Washington needs bulldozed and start over.

MARTIN: So Republican establishment types who have bemoaned his candidacy from the get-go, how does he reach out to them? Because he will need their support as he moves into a general.

MARINO: He will need their support, but he's also garnered an overwhelming number of - millions of people from both sides of the aisle who have - just believe in Donald Trump because he says what he thinks. He doesn't have to be politically correct. He doesn't - people are tired of political correctness.

INSKEEP: About 10 seconds.

MARINO: And the establishment will - the so-called establishment will come over because they're going to have to do business with him.

INSKEEP: Congressman...

MARINO: Business now has changed the way it's going to be done in Washington.

INSKEEP: Congressman Tom Marino, thanks for joining us once again. Really appreciate it.

MARINO: You're very welcome.

INSKEEP: And Sarah McCammon is still with us. Just got about 10, 12 seconds, Sarah. Is there any possibility for Trump's opponents to stop him at the convention as they once hoped to do?

MCCAMMON: Technically, the convention can write its own rules, do what it wants. But realistically, Steve, that isn't likely. Trump has so much support and has gotten so many votes. And that's really what it comes down to.

INSKEEP: OK. Sarah, thanks very much, really appreciate it.

MCCAMMON: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Sarah McCammon talking with us on this morning after Donald Trump won the Indiana primary. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.