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Indiana primary voters head to the polls: 5 things to watch for

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and vice-presidential candidate Carly Fiorina applaud during a question and answer session with Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity at The Indiana War Memorial Friday, April 29, 2016, in Indianapolis. Credit: AP

It’s been some week for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.).

He formed an alliance with Ohio Gov. John Kasich designed to block Republican frontrunner Donald Trump from clinching the party’s nomination, only to see it fray. He took the gamble of announcing Carly Fiorina as his would-be vice presidential running mate in an attempt to stem Trump’s momentum. And he was called “Lucifer in the flesh,” by former House Speaker John Boehner.

This was all in a run-up to Tuesday’s primary in Indiana — a state Cruz likely must have to prevent Trump from being on a path to win enough delegates to clinch the nomination before the party’s convention in July.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont also are competing, though Republicans are getting most of the headlines.

Here are five things to watch for on Tuesday:

Is this the Stop Trump movement’s make-or-break moment?

Indiana isn’t the final primary, but many pundits say it’s the one that will write the final script for the reality-television show that’s been the GOP campaign.

If Trump wins Indiana, he has a big enough leads in the remaining nine states to put him on a path to reach 1,237 delegates, the number necessary to clinch the nomination. If Trump doesn’t, his bid to reach 1,237 becomes much harder.

Political action committees affiliated with the #NeverTrump reportedly have dumped millions of dollars on advertising in the last week. They have said the fight will continue (as they eye Nebraska and California), but admit Indiana is crucial.

Will the Cruz/Kasich alliance yield any benefits?

The idea had some strategic merit: Kasich wouldn’t campaign in Indiana so as to make Cruz the clear anti-Trump choice. Cruz would return the favor by not competing in New Mexico and Oregon.

But it’s not clear if enough Republican voters will buy into it.

At the time of the grand bargain, Cruz was trailing Trump by just a few points in most Indiana polls. But Trump’s lead has increased since, moving to an average nearly 10 percentage points, according to Real Clear Politics.

“Indiana voters don’t like the idea of a political pact, or being told how to vote,” Indiana pollster Christine Matthews told The Associated Press.

Can Cruz weather a storm or is he near the end?

Cruz’ move to name Fiorina sparked all sorts of Internet jokes and was labeled as desperate by many pundits. Some say a loss here could be the practical end of the line for the fiery conservative.

“I think it was a bad week for Cruz and, therefore, probably fatal to his campaign,” said Matthew Wilson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. He said all of Cruz’s moves might have made sense earlier in the campaign, but now are “being deployed too late in the game.”

But Cruz, touting the endorsement of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, was holding rallies around the state and vowing to continue his campaign — even if he loses Tuesday.

“I am in for the distance,” he told reporters in Osceola. “As long as we have a viable path to victory, I am competing to the end.”

If Trump wins, will Republicans resistance fall like dominoes?

For months, Republican leaders have been saying the brash businessman would not be the party’s nominee. But as Trump has reeled off victories, more and more are starting to say it could be time to rally behind him and avoid a divisive convention.

If he wins Tuesday, watch for him to make that case in even stronger terms as he moves to get the GOP to unify behind him.

Can Sanders keep his diminishing chances alive?

Sanders has lost five of the last six Democratic primaries to Clinton, has fallen behind by 808 delegates and has laid off 200 campaign workers. But he’s campaigning hard in Indiana and says it’s no time to quit.

“For us to win the majority of pledged delegates, we need to win 710 out of the remaining 1,083. That is 65 percent,” Sanders told The National Press Club on Sunday. “That is, admittedly, a tough road to climb, but not an impossible one. And we intend to fight for every vote and delegate remaining.”

He also vowed to fight to get “superdelegates” — party officials and other insiders who are overwhelmingly supporting Clinton — to change their minds. But he’ll need to resume a winning streak before he can begin to get any Dems to listen to that argument.

With wire reports.

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