OSCEOLA, Ind. -- Ted Cruz vowed to “absolutely” stay in the race for the Republican presidential nomination even if he loses Indiana’s primary on Tuesday.
“I am in for the distance,” Cruz told reporters Monday after greeting patrons at a café in this northern Indiana town.
“As long as we have a viable path to victory, I am competing until the end,” Cruz said.
In an interview with NBC News' Hallie Jackson later in the day, Cruz remained confident Trump won't earn the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the nomination before the convention. "If you can't earn a majority, it means you can't be the nominee because it means you can't unite the party and you'd be an incredibly weak general election candidate," he said.
An NBC/WSJ/Marist poll released on Sunday gave Donald Trump a 15-point advantage over Cruz in the Hoosier state.
Cruz disputed those findings while talking to a supporter at the café.
“You’re behind ol’ Donald,” the man told Cruz.
“Well, we’re not,” Cruz responded. “Look, the polls have been all over the place. I think where we are in Indiana is neck and neck.”
Cruz has seemingly put all of his chips into setting himself up for a victory in Indiana, where 57 delegates are up for grabs. A loss on Tuesday would significantly narrow his chances of sending the GOP race to a contested convention.
On Thursday night at a rally in South Bend – before the release of the poor polling figures -- Cruz bluntly spoke about the stakes of Indiana’s primary: “It is the common sense and good judgment of the Hoosier state that is the one thing that stands between us and plunging over the cliff.”
Four days later inside this cafe, Cruz continued to push Indiana’s importance to picking the GOP nominee, telling a supporter: “It’s going to be up to the people of Indiana.”
For the last week, Cruz has visited towns up and down the state – from Evansville to South Bend.
His campaign built an alliance with rival John Kasich, which led to Cruz boasting last week aloud at several rallies that Kasich was “pulling out of Indiana.”
“What that means is that Indiana gets a straight and direct choice between our campaign and Donald Trump,” Cruz said last Monday at a stop in Franklin.
The Texas senator has long suggested he would beat Trump in a head-to-head matchup, but the NBC/WSJ/Marist poll found that 58 percent of Indiana Republicans are resistant and opposed to the duo’s alliance.
Cruz also named Carly Fiorina as his running mate at a rally in Indianapolis last week – a move intended to reignite the floundering campaign after being swept in five northeastern states last Tuesday.
And despite Monday’s assurances that he would stay in the race, Cruz’s tone at a rally in La Porte one night early conveyed just how high the stakes are for the survival of his campaign.
"I believe in the people of the Hoosier state. I believe in the men and women gathered here and the goodness of the American people that we will not give into evil but we will remember who we are, and we will stand for our values," he said Sunday.
He continued to make the dramatic argument on Monday.
“I trust the good people of Indiana to differentiate...I believe in the American people. We are not a bitter, angry, petty, bigoted people. That is not America. I reject that vision of America,” Cruz said.