Donald J. Trump is no longer the presumptive Republican nominee for president. "A small number" of unbound Republican delegates told the Associated Press on Thursday that they will support Trump, giving him 1,238 delegates, one more than the 1,237 needed to clinch the nomination.
Since Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Governor John Kasich of Ohio dropped out of the race earlier this month, there was no question that Trump would become the nominee eventually, but Thursday marks a turning point in the race and American political history.
Among the previously unpledged delegates who threw their support behind Trump on Thursday were Oklahoma's GOP chairwoman, Pam Pollard, and Colorado's GOP chairman, Steve House.
"I think he has touched a part of our electorate that doesn't like where our country is," Pollard told the AP. "I have no problem supporting Mr. Trump."
"Leadership is leadership," House added. "If he can surround himself with the political talent, I think he will be fine."
Others are not so sure. The top-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, House Speaker Paul Ryan, has yet to endorse Trump, citing concerns over the billionaire's conservative bona fides. Former GOP presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush have both refrained from endorsing, and have said they will not attend their party's convention in Cleveland in July.
Mitt Romney, the GOP's 2012 presidential nominee, has been a vocal critic of Trump, and the 2008 nominee, Senator John McCain of Arizona, has expressed concerns privately that Trump's name at the top of the ticket could hurt his chances of re-election. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who also ran to become the nominee, called Trump a "race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot." Later, CNN reported Graham had privately encouraged donors to back Trump, which Graham denied.
Trump's path to the nomination was long and rocky. He faced 16 challengers, most of them with more experience and some with the backing of the GOP establishment. Jeb Bush, son of George H.W. Bush and younger brother of George W. Bush, was favored early. But Bush's inability to stand up to Trump's relentless bullying in debate after debate saw the onetime frontrunner exit the race in February. Another prominent Floridian, Senator Marco Rubio, left the race in March after losing his home state's primary to Trump.
Political insider and outsiders alike were trampled by Trump's unorthodox campaign. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former New York Governor George Pataki, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore and retired pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson all exited the contest as Trump gained support.
He will likely face former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner, in the general election this fall.