Trump has enough delegates for Republican nomination
Donald Trump has reached the magic number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president. It is a milestone few had believed could be reached and it has upended the political landscape, setting the stage for an intensely vicious autumn campaign.
Mr Trump was put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told AP they would support him at the national convention in July. Among them is Oklahoma party chairwoman Pam Pollard.
"I think he has touched a part of our electorate that doesn't like where our country is," Ms Pollard said, adding: "I have no problem supporting Mr Trump."
It takes 1,237 delegates to win the Republican nomination. Trump has now reached 1,238.
With 303 delegates at stake in five state primaries on June 7, Mr Trump will easily add to his total, so avoiding a contested convention in Cleveland.
Mr Trump, a political neophyte who for years had delivered caustic commentary on the state of the nation from the sidelines but had never run for office, fought off 16 other Republican contenders in an often ugly primary race.
Many on the Right have been slow to warm to Mr Trump, wary of his conservative bona fides. Others worry about his crass personality and the lewd comments that he has made about women.
But millions of grassroots activists, many of them outsiders to the political process, have embraced Mr Trump as a plain-speaking populist who is not afraid to offend.
Steve House, the chairman of the Colorado Republican Party and an unbound delegate, who confirmed his support of Mr Trump to the AP, said he liked the billionaire's background as a businessman.
"Leadership is leadership," House said. "If he can surround himself with the political talent, I think he will be fine."
Mr Trump's pivotal moment comes amid a new sign of internal problems.
Hours before clinching the nomination, he announced the abrupt departure of political director Rick Wiley, who was in the midst of leading the campaign's push to hire staff in key battleground states.
In a statement, Mr Trump's campaign said Mr Wiley had been hired only on a short-term basis until the candidate's organisation "was running full steam".
His hiring about six weeks ago was seen as a sign that party veterans were embracing Mr Trump's campaign. A person familiar with Mr Wiley's ousting said the operative had clashed with others in Trump's operation and did not want to put long-time Trump allies in key jobs.
Some delegates who confirmed their decisions to back Mr Trump were tepid at best, saying they were supporting him out of obligation because he had won their state's primary.
Cameron Linton of Pittsburgh said he would back Mr Trump on the first ballot because he won the primary vote in Mr Linton's district.
"If there's a second ballot, I won't vote for Donald Trump," Mr Linton said, "he's ridiculous. There's no other way to say it."
Trump's path to the Republican presidential nomination began on June 16, 2015.
Over the following months, he called Mexicans "rapists", promised to build a wall between the US and Mexico and proposed banning most Muslims from the US for an indeterminate time.
He criticised women for their looks. And he unleashed an uncanny marketing ability in which he deduced his critics' weak points and distilled them to nicknames that stuck.
"Little Marco" Rubio, "Weak" Jeb Bush and "Lyin' Ted" Cruz, among others, all were forced into reacting to Mr Trump. They fell one by one - leaving Mr Trump the sole survivor of a riotous Republican primary.
His rallies became magnets for free publicity. Onstage, he dispensed populism that drew thousands of supporters, many wearing his trademark "Make America Great Again" hats and chanting, "Build the wall!"
The events drew protests.
One rally in Chicago was cancelled after thousands of demonstrators surrounded the venue and the Secret Service could no longer vouch for the candidate's safety.
It promises to be a memorably bitter campaign.