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Is Indiana The Last Fighting Chance For #NeverTrump?

Tuesday's GOP primary in Indiana could be the last stand for #NeverTrump, a movement devoted to keeping Donald Trump from becoming the Republican nominee.

TRANSCRIPT
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:  This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

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UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting) Donald Trump has got to go. Hey, hey. Ho, ho.

SIMON: That's the sound of the scene from just outside the California Republican Convention near San Francisco airport as Donald Trump rolled up yesterday to address the delegates. There was violence in addition to the chants of progressive slogans and protesters who waved Mexican flags and beat drums. For Republicans who are opposed to Mr. Trump's candidacy, Indiana's primary on Tuesday could be their last best chance to deny him the nomination. Several groups, founded by Republicans or organizations with longtime ties to the party, are part of the anti-Trump effort in that state. Here's NPR's national political correspondent Don Gonyea.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Indiana is a showdown between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. The other Republican still in the race, John Kasich, has agreed not to campaign in the state, giving Cruz a better shot at a win. But Trump has other opponents here as well. There's the conservative Club for Growth, which is running anti-Trump ads. And there's this from the Our Principles PAC, founded by a former Mitt Romney campaign staffer.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Former students say Trump University was a scam, costing up to $35,000 for an unlicensed illegal school that offered no actual degrees, now accused of intentionally misleading thousands of students.

GONYEA: Then there's a group called Never Trump. Longtime Republican strategist Rory Cooper, who worked for former Congressman Eric Cantor and former Speaker John Boehner, is one of its creators.

RORY COOPER: It's using social media and paid online media in order to reach voters in a highly targeted way. We're not trying to sweep across a state. We're trying to move specific voters.

GONYEA: It's actually better to call it hashtag #NeverTrump for its online presence and lack of volunteers on the ground making calls and door knocking. The big success for anti-Trump groups so far was the Wisconsin primary earlier this month. They had big help there from local talk radio and most of the Republican infrastructure in the state. And Cruz won. That's not the case in Indiana, so they're counting on a lot of word-of-mouth. But at political rallies, you find a lot of this.
So you know about this Never Trump movement. Have you heard about it?

ROXANNE GREER: No, I have not.

GONYEA: That's 50-year-old Roxanne Greer, a Ted Cruz backer who came to see him in Elkhart. She is skeptical Never Trump could work.

GREER: I don't think it's going to matter 'cause I think - I mean, I don't know how Trump couldn't be the nominee.

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GONYEA: That cheer is the arrival of Ted Cruz's campaign bus at a strip mall where he has an event planned. Waiting to meet Cruz is 58-year-old Debbie Burton. She says she has heard of these stop Trump efforts. Then she adds...

DEBBIE BURTON: I wish they'd thought of something just a little sooner, but I think I do support that.

GONYEA: But here's something else you find. Even with all of the vitriol between Cruz and Trump, a lot of Cruz supporters are quick to say they like Trump, too. Give a listen to this explanation from 19-year-old Tyler Clutter.

TYLER CLUTTER: If there was three hats on the table, I'd pick Cruz no matter what. But if Kasich's hat - if the wind blew Kasich's hat off the thing, I'd pick Cruz over Trump. But, you know, I don't...

GONYEA: But what if the Cruz hat flew away?

CLUTTER: And it was between Trump and Kasich? Oh, Donald Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Donald Trump.

CLUTTER: Donald Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Absolutely.

GONYEA: That was his mom in the background there. For Never Trump to succeed in Indiana, some former John Kasich supporters are going to have to switch to Cruz. No small thing given that Kasich voters tend to be more moderate. Pete Seat was a Kasich campaign consultant in Indiana.

PETE SEAT: And I don't think you're ever going to hear John Kasich say vote for Ted Cruz. And quite frankly, it's up to Ted Cruz to earn that support and earn those votes.

GONYEA: Polls show Trump over Cruz by single digits in the state. But here's one thing everybody agreed on - that Indiana may very well be Never Trump's last stand. If Cruz can't win, then Trump may very well be unstoppable for the nomination. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Indianapolis.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.

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