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Republicans divided on Trump as nominee; could threaten down-ticket elections

By Andrew V. Pestano
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After a win in Indiana and Ted Cruz suspending his campaign, Donald Trump became the unofficial Republican presidential nominee, which has generated a mixed reaction from the GOP. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
After a win in Indiana and Ted Cruz suspending his campaign, Donald Trump became the unofficial Republican presidential nominee, which has generated a mixed reaction from the GOP. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, May 4 (UPI) -- Donald Trump became the unofficial Republican presidential nominee after securing an Indiana win, which was followed by rival Ted Cruz suspending his campaign. Ohio Gov. John Kasich was expected to leave the race later Wednesday

Reaction has been mixed.

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Trump is less than 200 delegates away from securing the nomination outright. Even if not one more voter casts a ballot for Trump in the remaining primaries, Kasich would still be missing about half of the necessary delegates to secure the nod.

Initial reactions from the Republican Party are divided as the reality of a controversial Trump ticket sank in overnight. Some took it as an opportunity to unite the party -- mainly by being more anti-Hillary Clinton than pro-Trump.

RELATED Reports: John Kasich to drop out of presidential race

"Donald J. Trump will be presumptive GOP nominee," Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement on Twitter. "We all need to unite and focus on defeating Hillary Clinton."

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"There's a lot about Donald Trump that I don't like, but I'll vote for Trump over Hillary any day," Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary under former President George W. Bush, said in a statement.

Other Republicans did not feel quite as supportive.

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"If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed," tweeted South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a one-time Trump rival in the race. "We will deserve it."

While Arizona Sen. John McCain has yet to release a statement in reaction to the Indiana contest, earlier in the day, his one-time closest aide, Mark Salter, said he would pick Clinton instead of Trump.

"Basically, I think she's the more conservative choice and the least reckless one," Salter told MSNBC. "[Trump's] policy views are like some drunk's rant. If he tried to do anything like he says he will, we'd have no allies, a lot more enemies, and more of them with nukes. Finally, he's unfit for the office, too, temperamentally and morally, a narcissistic bigot."

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The divisive Trump ticket could also complicate several Republican senatorial races down ticket, including McCain's re-election campaign. McCain has previously said he would support whoever becomes the GOP nominee.

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Incumbent Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., are now being characterized as Trump supporters by their Democratic rivals, which could go badly for them if more people vote red in an attempt to stop Trump. Presidential election years already drive more voters to the polls, which usually favors the Democrats.

Democratic N.H. Gov. Maggie Hassan said Ayotte is "clearly in agreement" with Trump's views on defunding Planned Parenthood, adding Ayotte would support Trump "even though national security experts and members of both parties have condemned his foreign policy positions as dangerous."

Though Ayotte has said she would support whoever the GOP picks as its nominee, she has been careful to distance herself from Trump as she campaigns for re-election.

Katie McGinty, a Democrat running against Toomey, said that Toomey "has pledged to support Trump as GOP nominee despite his hateful rhetoric" and that she rejects "the policies and ideology of Trump and Toomey."

Illinois GOP Sen. Mark Kirk's campaign manager said he expects the Democratic presidential nominee to win Illinois in the November election, meaning Kirk's seat is threatened by Democratic Illinois Rep. Tammy Duckworth. Polls show Duckworth narrowly leading Kirk.

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Clinton, meanwhile, took Trump's unofficial nomination victory as an opportunity to gain support and generate donations.

"Donald Trump is the presumptive GOP nominee," Clinton said in a statement. "Chip in now if you agree we can't let him become president."

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