To kickoff the first GOP top-tier debate, the moderators went straight for the red-haired elephant in the room and the answer Donald Trump gave them will not help the Republican National Committee breathe more easily.
When the 10 participants were asked to raise their hand if they were unwilling to pledge their support to the GOP nominee and not run as a third-party candidate, Trump put his hand up after a quick glance at his rivals.
Moderator Bret Baier pressed him further, arguing, “experts say an independent run would almost certainly hand the race over the Democrats and likely another Clinton.” But Trump held firm.
“I cannot say I have to respect the person that if it’s not me, the person that wins. If I do win and I’m leading by quite a bit. That’s what I want to do. I can totally make the pledge if I’m a nominee,” Trump said. “I am discussing it with everybody. But I’m talking about a lot of leverage. We want to win and we will win. But I want to win as the Republican. I want to run as the Republican nominee.”
His response prompted Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to jump in the fray.
“This is what’s wrong. He buys and sells politicians of all stripes. He’s already hedging his bets on the Clintons,” Paul said. “He’s already hedging his bets because he’s used to buying politicians.”
Trump pointed over to Paul and shot back, “Well I’ve given him plenty of money.”