The prospect of a contested Republican convention captivated party officials, political junkies and the media for months -- sending everyone to the rulebooks for a refresher on how the nomination process works.
That's all a pipe dream now.
Donald Trump emerged Tuesday as the GOP's presumptive 2016 nominee
following a commanding win in Indiana and Ted Cruz's decision to drop out of the race
. Trump said he spoke with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus Tuesday night. And the chairman, who has had a contentious relationship with Trump, made clear the real estate mogul would be at the top of the ticket in November.
"@realDonaldTrump will be presumptive @GOP nominee," Priebus tweeted. "We all need to unite and focus on defeating @HillaryClinton #NeverClinton"
A key strategy of the anti-Trump forces centered on keeping Trump from reaching a majority of delegates. The assumption was that a rival campaign's superior ground game would easily defeat Trump on the convention floor once many delegates were no longer bound by popular votes in their states.
The architects of this strategy seemed incredibly confident just last month.
"GOP voters in Wisconsin rejected Donald Trump just like the entire Republican base will do in Cleveland this summer," said Katie Packer of the anti-Trump Our Principles PAC just a month ago, after Texas Sen. Ted Cruz defeated Trump in Wisconsin. "The Republican presidential nomination process now moves to an open convention."
And few weeks ago, Cruz himself was confident that Trump would not reach the delegate threshold, calling his victory in Wisconsin "the nail in the coffin."
"We are headed to a contested convention. At this point, nobody is getting 1,237," Cruz told a Philadelphia radio host on April 20. "Donald is going to talk all the time about other folks not getting to 1,237. He's not getting there, either."
But after the results were in Tuesday night, the tone from Trump's opposition changed.
Trump's big win forced Cruz to admit that his own path to the nomination "has been foreclosed."
"In view of tonight's events, it's obviously significantly harder to see how Donald Trump does not become the GOP nominee," said Liz Mair, who co-founded an anti-Trump PAC called Make America Awesome. "For too many Americans, the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump feels like a choice between being shot in the head, and being shot in the head, with perhaps the only 'third way' being a vote for the Libertarian Party candidate or a write-in, just to ease the conscience. In any event, I expect the onslaught from the Democratic Party to be imminent, brutal, and devastating."
Packer, meanwhile, pledged to keep working against Trump, expressing hope that in the month before the June 7 primary in California, he might "disqualify himself in the eyes of voters."
Unable to best Trump in the popular vote in most states, Cruz's campaign dedicated significant resources to mastering the party's complicated delegate selection process, going meticulously state-by-state to peel delegates from Trump's grasp. Cruz was especially successful last month in Colorado, where strong organization overtook Trump
to claim 13 delegates.
The effort was, in fact, so successful in many states that Trump and his campaign lashed out at the Republican Party, accusing the primary system of being "rigged" and "unfair."
Party officials responded by saying that Cruz was merely doing a better job of securing delegates through rules that had been public for months.
Despite Cruz's successes with delegates later in the primary process, Trump's consistent victories with voters made it increasingly difficult to catch up with him in the delegate count.
Cruz's exit from the race leaves only Ohio Gov. John Kasich to face Trump in future contests, a candidate who has only defeated Trump in a single state: His own.