What Comes After Indiana For The Candidates? The Game Has Changed For Good

The Indiana primary became surprisingly important in this election season, particularly for the Republican race. After a week of huge announcements and projected confidence trying to drum up support from Indianans, Ted Cruz dropped out of the race, leaving only Kasich and Trump to compete at the convention. For the Democrats, Bernie Sanders pulled off a pretty narrow win over Hillary Clinton, but it might not mean much to his campaign in the long-term. Now that each race has become a one-on-one ahead of the conventions, what comes next for the candidates after Indiana? Update: NBC reports that John Kasich is also dropping out of the Republican race, leaving Trump alone in the GOP field.

First, the biggest news, and biggest question, to come out of the Indiana primary, Donald Trump. Now the presumptive nominee for the Republican party, he's got to start focusing on shifting his message and appealing to a wider voter pool. Experts agree that a general election win will be nearly impossible without significant minority support, and Trump has managed to alienate nearly every marginalized demographic. Changing that perception is absolutely critical to his campaign and much of the election going forward will likely work on appealing to those voters he has previously ostracized.

Since Trump is now unopposed, he's got a lot of time to get the jump on his likely rival Hillary Clinton. She won't be able to officially lock down the race until California in June, and especially now that Bernie Sanders won Indiana, Clinton still has to be present and attentive to her primary race. That gives Trump a lot of time to do what he does best — attack. Trump has untold money and influence to run any ad he wants, and that could put Clinton pretty far behind by the time she can finally put her primary race behind her. It could be tough for her campaign to balance both needs, but now that she is the presumptive nominee, she's likely to get even more help from donors to pull it off.

And finally, there's the berning question of Sanders. Yes, he won the state of Indiana, which is huge for his campaign and the message that the American people are sending to the Democratic party. But his win wasn't a big enough margin to dent Clinton's delegate lead and disrupt her clear path to the nomination. There seems to be a need in the electorate for a candidate like Sanders, but the minority is just small enough that he won't make it to the nomination. He could drop out, and might, considering his fundraising hauls are slowing down after his string of losses, but it's more likely that he stays in the race to hammer home the message to the DNC that people are looking for more radical solutions.

No one expected the Indiana primary to be particularly significant in this race, but it ended up being the primary that finalized the players in the 2016 general election. The next primaries are Nebraska (only Republicans) and West Virginia next Tuesday, which should be exciting to watch. Although the races are essentially decided, this election season has proved that anything can happen, so you won't want to miss these next primaries.