Will Ted Cruz Win The Indiana Primary? "Lucifer In The Flesh" Needs This One

Ted Cruz's presidential hopes are on the ropes following his humiliation at the hands of Donald Trump in Tuesday's primaries. Cruz is surely hoping to come away with a big victory in California, the biggest delegate prize in the country, and his selection of Carly Fiorina as his running mate may have been an attempt to win the Golden State. But forget about California: Indiana votes first, and if Ted Cruz doesn't win Indiana, he's toast.

It's worth noting at the outset that the Republican delegate race is truly on the razor's edge, and as such, any state could conceivably play the role of tiebreaker. We probably won't know who the nominee is until, at the absolute earliest, California votes on June 7, because the Indiana primary won't give any of the Republican candidates a majority of delegates. Still, it's the biggest haul other than California, and Cruz really needs the bulk of the state's 57 delegates if he wants to keep Trump from winning a majority (which, mathematically, is his only path to becoming the nominee).

It's always tricky to game these things out, because their are multiple primaries remaining, and the importance of any given one depends on the results of the others. That said, both The New York Times and FiveThirtyEight have calculated delegate targets for Trump — that is, the benchmark he has to hit in each state in order to have 1,237 delegates before the convention — and in each model, Indiana is must-win for Cruz.

According to the Times, Trump only needs to win 45 of Indiana's 57 delegates to be on track to win the nomination. However, Cruz could single-handedly stop Trump from reaching 1,237 if he dominates in Indiana and performs in accordance with his demographic strengths in every remaining state. If Cruz gets routed in Indiana, however, he'll have to obliterate Trump either in California (where Trump leads by an average of 17 points) or in a minimum of three more states that have yet to vote.

FiveThirtyEight's forecast, which is based on interviews with several delegate experts, predicts that Trump will end the primaries with 1,208 pledged delegates. This means that if the vast majority of Pennsylvania's 54 unbound delegates vote for him at the convention, as the reporting suggests they will, he'll clear 1,237 by a squeaker. However, the forecast has Trump falling short of that goal if Cruz wins decisively in Indiana.

You may have noticed that these scenarios in which Trump falls short of a majority all involve Cruz not just winning in Indiana, but winning it big. And that's sort of the point: Trump is easily on track to winning a majority of delegates, Cruz could win in Indiana but still fail to stop Trump from hitting 1,237. Trump, meanwhile, could lose Indiana but still come away victories. Indiana isn't make-or-break for Cruz; it is, in the words of my colleague Chris Tognotti, break-or-possibly-make.