Politics

RNC Chair Admits Trump is 'Presumptive GOP Nominee'

Priebus says GOP needs to unite and focus on defeating Clinton

Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, spoke at the American Conservative Union's CPAC conference at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus referred to Donald Trump as the "presumptive GOP nominee" in a tweet Tuesday after Sen. Ted Cruz announced he was suspending his campaign.  

"We all need to unite and focus on defeating Hillary Clinton," Priebus tweeted.  

Priebus's acknowledgement of Trump's path to the nomination indicates that the establishment wing of the Republican Party may start embracing the real estate mogul as their nominee in advance of the Republican convention in July.  

Prior to Cruz's decision to drop out, many establishment Republicans had privately — and sometimes publicly — hoped for a contested convention.  

"If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed ... and we will deserve it," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., tweeted just hours before the polls closed in Indiana.  

After Cruz dropped out, Graham and 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney both tweeted their thanks to Cruz for his "fight for conservatism."  

Former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who had briefly sought the Republican nomination, said on Fox News Tuesday that he is still critical of Trump but that he will be supporting him given the choices.  

"It’s binary right now," Jindal said. "It’s Trump or Clinton. My vote is for Trump."  

Jindal said he thought it was foolish for the GOP establishment to go after Trump, noting their attacks only made him stronger.  

"It may take a while for people to coalesce and unify behind him," Jindal added.  

Ben Carson, another former presidential candidate, said on Fox News that Trump's win in Indiana showed the voters wanted to supersede the narrative and ensure the nominee would not be decided in a contested convention.  

"The people themselves have just gotten disgusted with being manipulated and controlled," said Carson, a Trump supporter.  

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, also a Trump supporter, said on Fox News that Trump struck the right tone in his Indiana victory speech and made strides toward unifying the party by praising Cruz and Priebus.  

“This will be a much bigger Republican party three months from now,” Gingrich said of Trump's ability to cultivate new GOP voters.  

As Trump looks toward the general election, he has two big decisions to make, Gingrich said. First is whether he runs a 50-state campaign or hones in his effort on half a dozen or so key states. Second is whether Trump attacks Hillary Clinton and her specific policies and actions or runs broader campaign against the left.  

"He may do more to dismantle the left than anyone in our lifetime, including [former President Ronald] Reagan and including me," Gingrich said.  

Contact McPherson at lindseymcpherson@rollcall.com and follow her on Twitter @lindsemcpherson. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.