Cruz supporters in Indiana shocked by Republican’s decision to quit

Several of the dozens of Ted Cruz supporters that filed into Crowne Plaza in Indianapolis on Tuesday evening felt a loss was imminent. The polls were not close, and Indiana was not shaping up to be Wisconsin, where Cruz won in April.

But spirits were still high for some, including Houston resident Nancy Furst, an energetic 68-year-old who said she's known Cruz since he was a child and planned to keep traveling to other states for him.

"It's not over. We might have lost the inning, but we haven't lost the ball game yet," she said.

That all changed when Cruz came to the stage at about 8:40 p.m. and announced he was dropping out. "From the beginning I said I would continue on as long as there was a viable path to victory," Cruz said, drawing gasps, "oh nos" and wails of disappointment from the crowd. "Tonight, I'm sorry to say that it appears that path has been foreclosed."

Furst was among several supporters who said Cruz's decision to suspend his campaign came as a surprise. And many said they're not quite sure what they’ll do in the November election. Some said they might consider Donald Trump, who is now the presumptive GOP nominee. Some said they would write in Ted Cruz's name on the general election ballot. Others said they wouldn't vote.

"It's sad. I think we have no good choice coming in the fall, so I won't be voting for president in the fall," said David Perkins, 54, of Indianapolis. He had been voting for president for 35 years, he said.

Rebecca Pensky, 57, of New Jersey, said she campaigned in two other states for Cruz before coming to Indiana and said she feels "disgusted" that Hoosiers chose Trump over Cruz. She said the Indiana loss was not demoralizing, and she detailed the road to a contested convention.

But as soon as Cruz announced he was withdrawing from the race, Pensky was among some of the loudest responders in the room.

"Oh my God we're stuck with Trump," she said. "We have Trump! We have Trump! We have [expletive] Trump! I'm done. I'm done. We are never voting Trump. Never!"

A distraught Linda Bond, 54, had her makeup ruined by her tears. The Kansas City, Missouri, resident had stumped for Cruz in Iowa and Kansas, "and then I came here and was planning to go to California."

"Since he announced [his candidacy], I've been donating $15 and praying for him and doing phone calls and doing what I could," she said. "This is devastating for our country."

Not everyone was in shock. Matthew Shute, a 22-year-old Indiana University senior, was the ninth district director for Millennials for Cruz. He said he had been hoping for a Cruz victory, but he got a bad omen when he saw the teleprompters on stage.

"He's not a teleprompter guy. So we walked in and saw those and thought, it's not a good sign."

He later added: "One thing that Cruz is, is he's frugal with other people's money. And the chances of him being able to pull off the upsets in the remaining states is very slim. And in order to do that, he'd have to spend a lot of money. So I think he made the moral decision to be frugal."

Greg Ferguson, 61, of Avon said he's volunteered for Cruz in Wisconsin and was looking for a similar win here. But the dynamics were different in Indiana, he said, and he believes that the state wasn't prepared to make an anti-Trump stand. "I have to say I'm not all that proud of my state tonight,” he said.

Vicky Vaughn, another Hoosier, felt a similar sentiment. "I was really hoping that Indiana was a smarter state and that we would chose a man with a proven record of integrity and intelligence."

Furst, the Texas resident who said she knows Cruz, said she hadn't been able to process Cruz's decision yet. "God is in control, that's all I can say, so we just got to start praying for our country."

"I thought he would go on to California and thought there might be some opportunity at the convention for reshuffling," said Rick Raymond, 69, of Ohio.

Asked whether he would support Trump as the presumptive nominee, he said, "I have no idea what to do at this point. This is something I didn't imagine we'd be dealing with this early."

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.