All three U.S. Republican candidates – Sen. Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and Gov. John Kasich – have backed down from their “pledges” to support the party’s candidate at the general election, “regardless of who it is”.
During CNN’s Town Hall event last night, host Anderson Cooper pressed the candidates on the pledge, which Donald Trump announced he signed in September 2015, with the other candidates pledging their support at the first Republican candidates’ debate.
Last night, Mr. Trump told Mr. Cooper, when asked if he continued to pledge for whoever the Republican nominee is, “No, I don’t anymore”, while both Mr. Cruz and Mr. Kasich implied their non-committal.
The pledge reads: “I, [candidate], affirm that if I do not win the 2016 Republican nomination for President of the United States I will endorse the 2016 Republican presidential nominee regardless of who it is… I further pledge that I will not seek to run as an independent or write-in candidate nor will I seek or accept the nomination for president of any other party.”
At the time, Mr. Trump said: “The best way for the Republicans to win is if I win the nomination and go directly against whoever they happen to put up. And for that reason, I have signed the pledge… So I will be totally pledging my allegiance to the Republican Party and for the conservative principles for which it stands.”
But following the past few weeks of wrangling between Mr. Trump, his opponent Sen. Ted Cruz, and the GOP establishment, Mr. Trump has hinted that he may no longer honor the document, claiming the opposition towards his candidacy from mainstream Republican circles as rationale.
Mr. Trump said last night: “No, I don’t [support the pledge] anymore… No, we’ll see who it is”.
“He [Cruz] was essentially saying the same thing. Let me just tell you, he doesn’t have to support me. I have tremendous support right now from the people. I’m way over two million votes more than him. I have many, many more delegates than him. Like many, many more delegates.”
When pushed, he said that he didn’t “want to make people uncomfortable” by forcing them to support him, and claimed that he had been “treated very unfairly” by the Republican establishment.
Earlier in the night Sen. Cruz responded to the same question in the following way:
“Anderson, as you mentioned, what I said is true. I am not in the habit of supporting someone who attacks my wife and attacks my family. That is going beyond the line. I think our wives and our kids should be off limits. They don’t belong in the attacks.”
When pressed again on the question of his support for Mr. Trump as the GOP nominee, Sen. Cruz responded: “Donald is not going to be the GOP nominee, we are going to beat him”. Asked one final time, he said, “I think nominating Donald Trump would be an absolute train wreck”.
Gov. John Kasich, also still in the race, responded to the same question by saying: “All of us shouldn’t even have answered that question [of the pledge],” after referring to himself as “the little engine that can”.
Asked whether his support for the pledge was “in the balance”, Gov. Kasich responded, “Well, yeah. I guess I would say that that would be a good way to describe it”. He said that none of the candidates should have answered the question, and they only did because it was during the first candidates’ debate.
“What the heck, sometimes you answer questions when you ought to just say ‘I’m not answering it'”.
He concluded: “If the nominee is someone who I think is really hurting the country and really dividing the country… I can’t stand behind them. But we have a ways to go. Let’s see how this all folds out”.
Mr. Trump has previously hinted that he would no longer support the pledge if the Republican establishment continued to work against him during the primary.
In February he said: “You know, I signed a pledge. And the pledge is a two-way street. And if it’s not that way, you’re going to have a big problem. They’re going to have a big problem with me.”
He also told CBS News’ John Dickerson: “I signed the pledge, I’ve been very good and straight and honest and honorable, and they have not treated me well. Look at the way they stacked the audiences in the debate. I’ve won every debate according to every poll. Every single online poll, but way they stacked the audiences, the way they talk.
“They have this light-weight Senator Marco Rubio saying terrible things, just personal terrible things. I don’t think it’s fair the way that the establishment is treating Donald Trump. I’ll be honest with you. I signed the pledge. I will abide by the pledge unless they default. As far as Im concerned they defaulted.”