One Republican candidate after the other ditched the Republican National Committee’s loyalty pledge Tuesday night. All three did so on national television, appearing on CNN’s primetime town hall.
The three candidates varied in clarity in their answers. Trump was quite direct, telling moderator Anderson Cooper, “No. I don’t anymore.”
Cruz and Kasich, who have largely not attacked each other aside from saying that the other should drop out, were more nuanced in their response. Cruz referenced Trump’s attacks on his wife and said, “I’m not in the habit of supporting someone who attacks my wife and attacks my family.” Cruz danced around the issue as Cooper tried to press him down firmly, but Cruz would not give a direct answer. He also said that he would defeat Trump, thus rendering the question moot.
Kasich went back and forth, sometimes disavowing the pledge, sometimes not. Kasich started off by saying, “Maybe I won’t answer it either.” In hindsight, this almost appears to be more foreshadowing than a joke. Kasich started off by saying that he respects those who run for office, but said that he would have to consider his endorsement. He agreed with Cooper’s assessment of “kind of waiting to see.” Kasich then went on to reference Fox News’s first question at the first debate where they asked if the candidates would pledge to support the eventual nominee. This was roughly a month before the loyalty pledge. Kasich’s response was, “You know, frankly, all of us shouldn’t have even answered that question, but it was the first debate, and — you know? What the heck, sometimes you answer questions — you ought to just say I’m not answering it.” Kasich did say he would not endorse if he felt the nominee was someone “that I think is really hurting the country, and dividing the country.” However, he declined to state if Trump fit that criteria.
The loyalty pledge was first devised by the Republican National Committee so that Donald Trump, who had been talking about a potential third party run, would not compete against the eventual Republican nominee. The establishment thinking was that Trump would eventually fade. However, the RNC could not only make Trump sign it, so each of the major candidates were asked to sign. In the end, Trump did sign the pledge after a meeting with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. The flip side was that if Trump were to win the nomination, the other candidates would have to support him. As Trump made controversial comments and attacked other candidates, some have said that they would have to reevaluate their eventual support. Senator Marco Rubio said that it was “getting harder every day” to see himself backing Trump as the nominee.