[WASHINGTON] Donald Trump's last remaining challenger for the Republican Party presidential nomination, John Kasich, dropped out of the race on Wednesday, US media reported, leaving the presumptive nominee with the task of uniting a fractured party around his White House bid.
Ohio governor Mr Kasich, who had stubbornly persisted with his campaign despite never having a viable path to the nomination, canceled a media appearance on Wednesday in Virginia and scheduled a 5 pm EDT (2100 GMT) statement in Columbus, Ohio, his campaign said.
Media reports said he would suspend his campaign. Mr Kasich's campaign did not immediately respond to Reuters' request for comment.
Mr Kasich's departure will clear the field for Mr Trump after the real estate mogul's chief rival, US senator Ted Cruz, ended his campaign on Tuesday following his defeat in Indiana's Republican primary contest.
But Mr Trump faces persistent opposition from some party loyalists who fear his positions on key issues could set up Republicans for massive losses to the Democrats in the Nov 8 election.
Mr Trump's spokeswoman Katrina Pierson said on MSNBC that Mr Trump believes more Republicans will support him when they consider the possibility of Hillary Clinton, favorite to be the Democratic nominee, being elected president.
"They're going to come around," she said.
The New York Times quoted Mr Trump as saying he would soon form a team to help him in the search for a vice presidential nominee to be announced in July. He put retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson on the committee. Mr Carson endorsed Mr Trump after pulling out of Republican race earlier this year.
Mr Trump, a former reality television star who has never held public office and who has honed an 'outsider' image, suggested he might make a more conventional choice as his running mate.
"I'm more inclined to go with a political person," Mr Trump told the Times.
"I have business very much covered."
Mr Trump's win in Indiana made him the presumptive presidential nominee, averting the possibility of a contested convention when Republicans choose their nominee at their gathering in Cleveland July 18-21.
It cleared the way him to prepare for a likely match-up in the November general election against former Secretary of State Mrs Clinton. She lost the Indiana primary to her tenacious challenger, US senator Bernie Sanders, but remains on course to become her party's nominee.
The New York businessman's immediate challenge is to mend deep fissures within the Republican Party, easing tensions with party loyalists who have been appalled by his bombastic, bullying style, his denigrating comments about women and his proposals to build a wall on the border with Mexico and deport 11 million illegal immigrants.
But in a series of Wednesday morning television interviews, Mr Trump, 69, made clear he would not forget some wounds from a tumultuous primary campaign in which many establishment Republicans rejected him and spawned Stop Trump and Never Trump movements.
"I am confident that I can unite much of it, some of it I don't want," Mr Trump said on NBC's "Today" show.
"Honestly, there are some people I really don't want. People will be voting for me. They're not voting for the party."
'UNITE AND FOCUS'
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus called Mr Trump the party's presumptive nominee in a tweet on Tuesday night and said, "We all need to unite and focus" on defeating Mrs Clinton.
In an interview Wednesday, Mr Priebus acknowledged achieving Republican unity would be difficult.
"It's going to take some time but we're going to get there," he said on CNN.
Support for Mr Trump among Republicans nationally jumped in recent weeks to the highest level of the primary campaign, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling. A recent poll found Mr Trump with the support of 53 per cent of Republican participants, well above Mr Cruz at 25 per cent. Mr Kasich had 16 per cent.
In a potential general election match-up, however, Mrs Clinton led Mr Trump by about 10 percentage points among likely voters. The poll included 623 Democrats and 556 Republicans and had a credibility interval of 5 percentage points.
Since launching his White House bid last summer as a longshot amid a crowded field that included governors, former governors and US senators, Mr Trump repeatedly defied predictions that his campaign would implode.
He prevailed over rivals he derided as "grown politicians," despite making provocative statements along the way that drew sometimes furious criticism from many in the party but fed his anti-establishment appeal.