Don't look now, but the Republican primary field just collapsed, and it all seems to have happened in a span of just 24 hours. After frontrunner Donald Trump's dominant victory in the Indiana primary on Tuesday, his chief rival Ted Cruz immediately withdrew from the race, clearing the path for the billionaire businessman to seize the nomination outright. And on Wednesday, his last remaining competition is reportedly following suit — John Kasich is widely expected to drop out of the race. So, will Donald Trump keep campaigning as the presumptive nominee?
It's an understandable question, since it seems so strange for the primary race to suddenly end this way. That's probably because historically speaking, this was a remarkably long, hard-fought contest — usually primary races lose all their drama and import mere weeks into the voting, with the early states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina playing an outsized role in deciding who'll nab the nomination.
This cycle, however, Trump had to fend off a long-term challenge to his candidacy, from multiple rivals who wanted to force a contested convention. Consequently, Trump was pushed into weeks and weeks of aggressive, and often inflammatory, campaigning throughout the later primary states.
So, will all that halt now that he's out in the lead? It's impossible to say for a certainty just yet — he does still need a couple hundred more delegates to clinch the nomination, and the schedule listed on Trump's website only extends out to Thursday, May 5. But that event does make it clear that he's not quite done in the primary states just yet, at least not unless he pulls a last minute change of plans — he's scheduled to appear next in Charleston, West Virginia, where he currently leads in the polls by nearly 30 points.
But that's the thing: what's leading in the polls when you're running unopposed? Trump is definitely going to keep campaigning, obviously, but the real question is whether he'll keep touring primary states until he passes 1,237 pledged delegates, or whether he'll change course entirely to general election battleground states. That's clearly the strategy that his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton has adopted, thanks to her bulletproof delegate lead over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — she spent the day of the Indiana primary campaigning in Ohio.
It'll be interesting to see just how quickly Trump pivots to this kind of campaign schedule, because it'll eventually be an inevitability. It's just a matter, really, of whether he wants to get down to the hard work of the general now, or take a few more victory laps as the presumptive nominee to burnish his image, and maybe bring some unity to the GOP. One way or another, though, the primary contests are now winding to the end — there are only nine states left on the Republican side, with the last voting taking place on June 7.