Republican Ted Cruz launched a blistering attack on rival Donald Trump as voters cast ballots in Indiana on Tuesday, calling him "amoral" and likening him to a fictitious character he described as "a braggadocios, arrogant buffoon."
Speaking to reporters in Evansville on the day of the state's presidential primary, Cruz warned that the country can "plunge into the abyss" if Trump is elected president.
"We are not a proud, boastful, self-centered, mean spirited, hateful, bullying nation," Cruz said, with his wife Heidi and running mate Carly Fiorina by his side. "If Indiana does not act, this country could well plunge into the abyss."
Trump countered with the following emailed statement:
"Ted Cruz is a desperate candidate trying to save his failing campaign. It is no surprise he has resorted to his usual tactics of over-the-top rhetoric that nobody believes. Over the last week, I have watched Lyin’ Ted become more and more unhinged as he is unable to react under the pressure and stress of losing, in all cases by landslides, the last six primary elections—in fact, coming in last place in all but one of them. Today’s ridiculous outburst only proves what I have been saying for a long time, that Ted Cruz does not have the temperament to be President of the United States."
Cruz faces a high-stakes test of his presidential campaign in Tuesday's primary, one of the last opportunities for the Texas senator to halt Trump's stunning march toward the GOP nomination.
Cruz has spent the past week camped out in Indiana, securing the support of the state's governor and announcing Fiorina, a retired technology executive, as his running mate. And he's vowed to stay in the race, regardless of the results.
"I am in for the distance, as long as we have a viable path to victory," Cruz told reporters on Monday.
Despite Cruz's criticisms of Trump, he has not ruled out supporting him if he becomes the Republican nominee.
Trump devoted more time to campaigning in Indiana than he has to most other states, underscoring his eagerness to put his Republican rival away and shift his attention toward Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.
While Trump cannot clinch the nomination with a big win in Indiana, his path would get easier and he would have more room for error in the campaign's final contests.
"Indiana is very important, because if I win that's the end of it. It would be over," Trump said during a lunch stop Monday in Indianapolis.