Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz held a campaign rally in Knightstown, Ind., Tuesday after the primary races in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. (Reuters)

Ted Cruz compares Clinton and Trump

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz held a campaign rally in Knightstown, Ind., Tuesday after the primary races in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. ( )

KNIGHTSTOWN, Ind. — Ted Cruz delivered a speech here Tuesday night dedicated to turning the page on what was expected to be another very difficult primary day for him and looking ahead to his colossal showdown with Donald Trump here next Tuesday.

In a speech timed to get ahead of voting results in five Eastern states where Trump was expected to add to his delegate lead, the Texas senator took sharp aim at his Republican presidential rival, tying him repeatedly to Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. Cruz accused Trump of standing with Clinton on a litany of policy and political fronts and said in jest that Clinton has tapped Trump as his running mate.

“Tonight, Donald Trump is expected to have a good night,” Cruz told a a packed crowd here, who booed. “Donald Trump is likely to win some states and the media is going to have heart palpitations this evening.”

Highlighting Indiana’s May 3 primary, which is shaping up as a must-win for the senator, Cruz argued: “Tonight this campaign moves back to more favorable terrain.”

In his speech, Cruz expressed optimism about a handful of other upcoming contests, including in Nebraska, Montana, South Dakota — he actually said North Dakota, which has already held its convention — Washington and California.

Cruz delivered his remarks at the iconic Hoosier Gym here where the famous movie “Hoosiers” was filmed. Cruz quoted the film, which is about an overachieving high school basketball team, and had an aide measure the height of the rim, recreating a famous scene.

By speaking in Indiana, Cruz was hoping to move beyond the five states voting Tuesday where Trump was expected to add to his delegate lead over the Texas senator: Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware and Maryland.

One of Cruz’s central aims was to try to tie Trump to Clinton. He said they are “flip sides of the same coin,” accusing Trump of marching in lockstep with Clinton on health care, foreign policy, immigration and other issues.

A heckler in the crowd appeared to accuse Cruz of not being eligible to be president. Cruz responded by saying that unlike Trump, he was not going to encourage violence at his event. The heckler was removed from the room.

Recent public polling has showed Trump and Cruz in close competition here in Indiana. Cruz struck a deal with Ohio Gov. John Kasich that effectively ended the governor’s bid to win the state and cleared the way for a Cruz vs. Trump showdown. In return, Cruz agreed to clear the way for Kasich to take Trump on directly in Oregon and New Mexico.

But the agreement hit some speed bumps on Monday and it remains unclear whether it will work well enough to boost Cruz past Trump in Indiana.

Cruz plans to spend much of the next week campaigning in the Hoosier State. In a Tuesday-morning interview with Indiana conservative radio host Greg Garrison, Cruz said “the entire country” will be watching Indiana and the primary will be “pivotal.” He encouraged voters to connect with him as he makes his way across the state on his campaign bus.