Donald Trump began his campaign by calling undocumented immigrants “rapists.” He wants to ban Muslims from entering the United States despite evidence doing so wouldn’t make the country safer, supports torture, and has a history of making crass comments about women.
None of that was enough to prompt Trump’s competitors for the Republican presidential nomination to say they won’t support Trump if he continues rolling through the primary process and winds up becoming the party’s nominee. In fact, they’ve repeatedly promised to back whoever the nominee ends up being. But in the wake of Trump’s crude attacks on Heidi Cruz, the two remaining non-Trump competitors for the GOP’s nomination are finally signaling they might not follow through on that promise after all.
Asked Friday about whether he’d still support Trump if he becomes the GOP candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said, “I don’t make a habit out of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my family.” That comment came less than two weeks after Cruz once again pledged to support Trump unless he literally shot someone, and just a day after Cruz dodged questions about whether his characterization of Trump as a “sniveling coward” in light of him demeaning his wife meant he wouldn’t support him in the general contest.
Ohio Governor John Kasich hasn’t gone quite as far as Cruz, but asked during a Meet the Press appearance on Sunday about whether he still intends to support candidate Trump, Kasich indicated it’s no longer a foregone conclusion.
“We’re going to look at it every single day, and we’ll see what happens,” Kasich said. “We’ve got a long way to go. And I don’t want to project that he’s going to be the nominee. I don’t think he will be. And if he is… I review it every day.”
During the interview, Kasich also expressed indignation about Trump’s attacks on Heidi Cruz.
“Families have to be off limits,” he said. “I mean, you cannot get these attacks on families. And if this becomes the order of the day, what kind of people are we going to have in the future that are going to run for public office? There’s got to be some rules, and there’s got to be something that gets set there. Some decency.”
Trump has been the front-runner for the GOP nomination for basically the entirety of his campaign, which he launched last June. During the first Republican debate in August, all of the candidates except Trump raised their hands and pledged to “support to the eventual nominee of the Republican party and pledge to not run an independent campaign against that person.” They restated that pledge during a Republican debate in early March.
Neither Cruz or Kasich have flat-out said they won’t support Trump. But they’ve also stopped saying they intend to support the Republican nominee, even if it’s Trump. That’s a departure from where they were at before Trump went after Heidi Cruz, and suggests they’re considering breaking the promise they made to party activists.
During the aforementioned debate in March, Cruz and Kasich were asked, “Can you definitely say you will support the Republican nominee, even if that nominee is Donald J. Trump?” They both unequivocally replied that they would.
“Yes, because I gave my word that I would,” Cruz said, with Kasich adding, “I will support whoever is the Republican nominee for president” while the crowd cheered.