Texas Senator Ted Cruz dropped out of the Republican presidential contest after a big loss Tuesday in the Indiana primary to billionaire real estate magnate Donald Trump.
On the Democratic side, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was the projected winner over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a close race, according to NBC News.
Cruz told supporters in Indianapolis that his "path toward victory has been foreclosed," but he thanked them nonetheless, calling them "incredible patriots."
“When we launched this campaign 13 months ago, we saw a movement grow," he said. "The pundits all said it was hopeless, but we saw over 300,000 volunteers all across this nation.” He noted that his campaign had pulled in more than 1.5 million contributions, averaging about $60 each.
“Together," he said, "we left it all on the field in Indiana. We gave it everything we’ve got. But the voters chose another path. And so with a heavy heart, but with boundless optimism for the long-term future of our nation, we are suspending our campaign.”
Earlier Tuesday night, U.S. television networks projected Trump would win Indiana in a landslide, with Cruz second and Ohio Governor John Kasich far behind in third.
But a Kasich spokesman said the governor was still aiming for a contested convention in July, where his objective is to capture the Republican nomination on a second or third ballot.
Trump's victory could give the former reality TV personality 57 more delegates — not enough to reach the 1,237 needed to clinch the nomination, but enough for Trump and his supporters to start declaring him the presumptive nominee at July's Republican convention in Cleveland.
"If we win Indiana, it's over," Trump had told voters in politically conservative Indiana, where vast reaches of farmland intersect with industrial centers.
Despite Sanders' victory on the Democratic side, Clinton leads the delegate count by a huge margin, making it just about mathematically impossible for Sanders to become the Democratic nominee.
Exit polls showed that the economy was foremost in the minds of Indiana voters. More than nine in 10 Republican primary voters and more than eight in 10 Democratic primary voters said they were very or somewhat worried about the economy, according to exit polls conducted for The Associated Press and television networks by Edison Research.
The often harsh-speaking Trump, who has never been elected to any political office, has shifted much of his insulting rhetoric from Cruz to Clinton as he becomes more and more confident they will face off in the November presidential election.
He disparaged Clinton's performance as secretary of state from 2009 to 2013, saying she was asleep during part of a 2012 terrorist attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans.
Trump told supporters he could defeat Clinton in states Republicans do not normally win, even as early election surveys suggest otherwise.
The winner of the November election will replace President Barack Obama, who leaves office in January after eight years in the White House.