Even After Cruz Exits Race, Stop Trump Movement Pledges to Fight

Image: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Trump
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event at The Palladium at the Center for Performing Arts in Carmel, Indiana, U.S. May 2.AARON P. BERNSTEIN / Reuters

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By Leigh Ann Caldwell

When Texas Sen. Ted Cruz bowed out of the Republican presidential race after losing Indiana Tuesday night, likely nominee Donald Trump said it's time to unite the party.

But not all Republicans are ready to stand behind the businessman's banner and elements of the stop-Trump movement vow to press on in their fight against him.

Rob Stutzman, a long-time California campaign strategist who worked for former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and is organizing a stop-Trump effort in the Golden State, said he's not yet giving up on his efforts to defeat Trump.

The group "will assess what a two man race looks like," Stutzman said as Cruz was exiting the race Tuesday night, referring to a race between Trump and the other man standing, Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

California was always supposed to be the stop Trump effort’s backstop. It votes June 7, the last day of the Republican primary and with its 172 delegates — 15 percent of the total necessary— it is the largest prize of any state.

But Trump needs less than 200 delegates to clinch the nomination and California is only one of nine states left to vote, making it extremely difficult to keep Trump from the magic number of 1237 delegates.

Even so, some Republicans won't get behind him.

Rory Cooper, the founder of the group Never Trump, said: "We will continue to seek opportunities to oppose his nomination and to draw a clear line between him and the values of the conservative cause."

Club for Growth, thanked Cruz for his leadership in the race and, showing its displeasure with the outcome, didn't mention or congratulate Trump.

“The Club for Growth PAC has been proud to stand with Senator Ted Cruz and the principled campaign he has run for president,” said David McIntosh, Club for Growth Action president.

Convincing donors to open their wallets under dire circumstances is going to prove challenging.

“No question Indiana will influence our fundraising,” Stutzman wrote in an email exchange, even before Cruz dropped out.

Related: Full 2016 Election Coverage

In their plan, Cruz was supposed to perform better, especially in Indiana, a state that he lost Tuesday where more than one-third of voters identify as born-again Christian and where rival Kasich agreed to step out of the way.

As the race progressed, the Never Trump forces produced fewer results, even in states it chose to compete. Never Trump groups spent $2.8 million in Indiana, according to ad-spending data compiled by SMG Delta. Additionally, $3.3 million was spent in support of Cruz and Trump still won. (Pro-Trump ads totaled less than $1 million.)

Fundraising had been relatively strong, too. Our Principles PAC, the best-financed stop-Trump group, raised more money in March, in the height of the primaries, than in any previous month, bringing in more than $8.4 million, expanding its network from just three donors in January to more than 50. But they spent more than they brought in and its unknown how much the group raised in April when Trump's dominance cemented.

Even under the best circumstances for the stop-Trump movement, California would have been an uphill battle.

Reed Galen, a Republican strategist in California who worked for Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign, said California is going to be difficult for stop-Trump efforts.

“California is a giant state. Giant,” Galen said, noting its 38 million people, including just 11 million in Los Angeles County, which makes any electioneering expensive.

Galen said that the big-moneyed Republicans in California don’t necessarily support Trump but don’t want to spend money on a lost cause.

“I think (the stop Trump effort) probably has a lot of moral support,” Galen said. “However, most of the donor community in Orange County is likely sitting on their hands.”

Making success even more difficult in California is that Trump falls in line with the type of Republican Californians like: celebrities-turned-politician, i.e. Schwarzenegger and Ronald Reagan.