Loyalty pledge torn up by Republican presidential hopefuls

WASHINGTON • All three remaining Republican presidential hopefuls say they no longer feel beholden to a "loyalty pledge" they signed in September not to run as a third- party candidate and to support the party's nominee for president.

When asked point blank at a CNN event in Milwaukee on Tuesday if he would pledge his support to the nominee, Mr Donald Trump answered: "No, I don't any more... I have been treated very unfairly. By basically the RNC (Republican National Committee), the Republican Party, the establishment."

"I'll see who it is. I'm not looking to hurt anybody. I love the Republican Party," he added.

Asked three times whether he would support Mr Trump as the party's nominee, Mr Ted Cruz refused to give a yes or no answer. "I'm not in the habit of supporting someone who attacks my wife and my family," the Texas senator said.

"I think nominating Donald Trump would be an absolute train wreck. I think it would hand the general election to (Democrat) Hillary Clinton."

Relations between Mr Trump and Mr Cruz have hit a new low after a week of backbiting, including a Twitter exchange of photos of Mr Trump's wife Melania, a retired model, and a seemingly unflattering photo of Mr Cruz's wife, Heidi.

Ohio Governor John Kasich, meanwhile, also dodged the question of whether he would support whoever became the Republican Party nominee, but left open the possibility that he might not.

"Maybe I won't answer it either," he said. "I don't want to be political here. I've got to see what happens."

RNC chairman Reince Priebus visited Mr Trump in his Manhattan office last September, when the tycoon officially signed a pledge to support the eventual nominee after threatening to run as a third- party candidate if he was treated unfairly.

Both Mr Kasich and Mr Cruz said at a debate earlier this month that they would support Mr Trump if he were to win the nomination.

Mr Trump, speaking after Mr Cruz on Tuesday, said he was fine not having the senator's support.

"I don't want to have him be tormented. Let me just tell you, I don't want his support," Mr Trump said. "I don't need his support. I want him to be comfortable."

Mr Trump is leading Mr Cruz in the delegate race, but it is unclear if he will be able to get the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. That would lead to a brokered convention in July.

Mr Trump also defended his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who was arrested by Florida police and charged with battery for allegedly grabbing a reporter at an event earlier this month.

The billionaire said his campaign manager "was acting as an intermediary" and had been "trying to block" reporter Michelle Fields, who, Mr Trump said, had grabbed his arm.

"If you look at her, she's actually grabbing me," Mr Trump told reporters. "She was running up and grabbing and asking questions and she wasn't supposed to be doing that." He said he believed Lewandowski was innocent and "should never settle this case".

Mr Trump added that he had no plans to fire Lewandowski, and questioned whether the bruises on Ms Fields' arm had been a result of her altercation with the campaign manager, saying: "How do you know those bruises weren't there before?"

BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2016, with the headline 'Loyalty pledge torn up by Republican presidential hopefuls'. Print Edition | Subscribe