CINCINNATI -- After a stunning sweep of five East Coast states Tuesday night, Donald Trump further tightened his grasp on the Republican presidential nomination.
And if the entrepreneur and former reality television star can win the Indiana primary on May 3, he may nearly seal the nomination.
“It’s very difficult to make an argument that he hasn’t won his party’s nomination outright,” said Jared Kamrass, a political consultant at Rivertown Strategies.
After Tuesday night, Trump proved that he can win everywhere from the East Coast to the deep South. That makes it harder for Republicans who dislike him to argue that someone else deserves the nomination.
Meanwhile his competitors, John Kasich and Ted Cruz, seem to be scrambling about what to do.
On Sunday, Kasich and Cruz announced they had forged an unprecedented alliance to divide up primaries in three states.
While Cruz focuses on Indiana, Kasich will devote his efforts to Oregon and New Mexico, all to stop Trump.
Cruz named former technology executive Carly Fiorina his running mate while visiting Indiana Wednesday.
Still, that's likely to do little to stop Trump supporters, who have become even more motivated to cast their ballots in recent weeks as Trump has lodged complaints about the Republican primary process.
“People are rallying around Donald Trump,” said Lee Hannah, a political science professor at Wright State University, the Dayton-area college that will host a presidential debate later this year. “His talk about being cheated out of the nomination is actually working with voters and mobilizing some people.”
After Tuesday, a contested convention looks much less likely, said Dan Birdsong, a University of Dayton political science lecturer.
“Trump did much better than most people expected," Birdsong said. "He’s never been able to get over the 50 percent threshold (of the vote) in any substantive way, and last night he did.”
Trump won well over 50 percent of the GOP vote in all five states, and over 60 percent in two of them: Rhode Island and Delaware.
In Pennsylvania, not only did Trump take 57 percent of the vote, he won John Kasich’s birthplace in Alleghany County by a double-digit margin.
Despite such a resounding defeat, Gary Cates, a West Chester resident and former Ohio state senator who campaigned for Kasich in Pennsylvania, wasn’t discouraged.
“I’m not discouraged at all because the game is not over until someone gets to 1237 delegates. Until then, everything is in play,” Cates said.
Cates made hundreds of phone calls and door knocks in Reading and the Philadelphia suburbs last weekend. It was his fourth campaign trip for Kasich.
“This is like nine-inning baseball game,” Cates said. “We’re only in the 7th inning, and the game isn’t over yet.”
But Kamrass disagrees.
“It’s over,” Kamrass said. “Both sides are done: we’re looking at a Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump general election.”
Yet Trump, now with 954 delegates, is still shy of the nomination and needs to win in Indiana and California.
The Indiana primary may be a dogfight between Cruz, who does well with Christian conservative voters, and Trump, who has the momentum. With 57 delegates at stake, recent polls give Trump a slight lead.
“Cruz is within striking distance (of Trump) but he had just such an awful night last night, that might have done him in,” Hannah said.
But Matt Byrne, a Cincinnati Republican who’s vowed never to vote for Trump, sees Indiana as one of the last hopes to stop Trump.
He is hopeful the Kasich-Cruz alliance may work. Voters who hate Trump may throw their support to Cruz just to stop Trump from winning delegates.
“I think there’s a good shot still of a contested convention,” Byrne said. “I’m hoping (the alliance) will help Cruz win Indiana. I know, personally, dozens of supporters who were not Kasich supporters but voted for Kasich to stop Trump in Ohio.”