Fox News’ main Republican presidential debate on Thursday night began with fireworks courtesy of frontrunner Donald Trump.
Moderator Bret Baier began by asking the ten candidates to raise their hands if they would not vow to support the eventual GOP nominee and “pledge to not run and independent campaign against that person.” Trump raised his hand.
“I cannot say I have to respect the person that — if it’s not me — the person that wins,” Trump explained.
Trump noted he hopes to run as a Republican, but he repeatedly refused to rule out the possibility he would launch a third party bid if he’s defeated in the primary.
“If I do win, and I’m leading by quite a bit, that’s what I want to do. I can totally make that pledge: If I’m the nominee, I will pledge that I will not run as an independent,” Trump said, adding, “And I am discussing it with everybody. 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.”
Trump, who has a wide lead in the polls, has previously threatened to launch an independent campaign. A third party bid by Trump could hypothetically divide the conservative vote and boost a Democrat in the general election.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) cut in and took a shot at Trump. Paul attacked Trump for his wealth and alluded to Trump’s past support for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner.
“Here’s what’s wrong. This is what’s wrong. He buys and sells politicians of all stripes,” Paul said of Trump. “Look, he’s already hedging his bet on the Clintons, OK? So if he doesn’t run as a Republican, maybe he supports Clinton, or maybe he runs as an independent? But I’d say that he’s already hedging his bets because he’s used to buying politicians.”
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