As Donald Trump has notched win after win in the GOP primaries and caucuses, conservative and Republican Party elites have begun to panic.
They have created new million-dollar coalitions to take down the New York businessman, rallied around the hashtag #NeverTrump and cheered past nominee Mitt Romney’s speech on Thursday morning tearing down the real estate mogul.
But asked at the end of Thursday night’s debate whether they’d vote for Trump if he was the Republican nominee, every candidate reluctantly said yes. Although not without making it really, really, really clear they didn’t want to.
“Support the Republican nominee?” said Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, as if he needed to process the question. “I’ll support Donald if he’s the Republican nominee — and let me tell you why.” He went on to berate Bernie Sanders as a “socialist,” and accuse Hillary Clinton of lying to “the family of victims who lost their lives in the service of our country,” concluding that, “We must defeat Hillary Clinton.” (Anyone interested in a #NeverTrump sticker, however, can purchase one on Rubio’s website.)
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas also pledged to support Trump, but made his answer all about himself: “I gave my word that I would,” he said. “And what I have endeavored to do every day in the Senate is do what I said I would do.”
Gov. John Kasich said he’d do it too. It may have been an easy call for the Ohio governor, since he believes he won’t need to cast that particular vote. “I kinda think that before it’s all said and done, I’ll be the nominee,” he said, and then launched into an explanation of candidate ethics. “When you’re in the arena, you enter a special circle, and you want to respect the people that you’re in the arena with. So if [Trump] ends up as the nominee — sometimes he makes it a little bit hard — but, uh, you know. I will support whoever is the Republican nominee for president.”
Finally, moderator Chris Wallace turned the question to Trump. “Can you definitively say tonight that you’ll definitely support the Republican nominee for president, even if it’s not you?” he asked. “Even if it’s not me?” Trump said innocently, eliciting laughter from the audience. He couldn’t resist answering the question without lobbing one last insult at his opponents.
“I’m going to give them some credit too, even though they don’t deserve it,” said Trump. “But the answer is: Yes, I will.”
(Cover tile photo: Jim Young/Reuters)