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  Rivals slam Donald Trump, but vow support if he gets nominated

Rivals slam Donald Trump, but vow support if he gets nominated

REUTERS | STEVE HOLLAND
Published : Mar 5, 2016, 6:19 am IST
Updated : Mar 5, 2016, 6:19 am IST

Republican presidential hopefuls Senator Marco Rubio (from left), Senator Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and Ohio governor John Kasich greet each other following a debate in Detroit, Michigan, on Thursday. — AFP

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Republican presidential hopefuls Senator Marco Rubio (from left), Senator Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and Ohio governor John Kasich greet each other following a debate in Detroit, Michigan, on Thursday. — AFP

Chief rivals to US Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump assailed him for shifting positions on issues at a debate, but said in the end that they would reluctantly support him if he were their party’s nominee.

 

Under questioning by Fox News Channel moderators on Thursday, US senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio governor John Kasich made the promise despite efforts by party elders to build an anti-Trump coalition of Republican voters to pick someone other than the incendiary New York billionaire.

Tempers escalated quickly at the two-hour debate and, as in previous encounters, the battle descended into schoolyard taunts between Mr Trump, Mr Rubio and Mr Cruz.

While Mr Trump’s three rivals followed party dogma, insisting they would set aside their concerns and rally around the ultimate nominee, they said they did so reluctantly if Mr Trump were to emerge as the candidate for the general election.

 

“Sometimes he makes it a little bit hard,” said Mr Kasich, 63.

Mr Trump, asked if he would support the Republican nominee if it was someone other than him, seemed startled by the question given the momentum behind him, but eventually said, “Yes I will.”

With the Florida and Ohio primary votes looming on March 15 as make-or-break for the anti-Trump forces, Mr Trump provided some ammunition to his critics.

Mr Trump shrugged when presented with videotaped evidence from the moderators that he had shifted positions on the Iraq war, immigration and whether to admit refugees from the Syrian civil war.

“You have to show a degree of flexibility,” he said.

 

Both Mr Rubio and Mr Cruz pounced.

“I hope we don’t see yoga on this stage,” Mr Cruz said. Mr Rubio replied: “Well, he’s very flexible so you never know.”

It remained to be seen whether the debate would prove to be damaging to Mr Trump. The runaway frontrunner to date has been immune from criticism that other politicians normally face, for instance, over flip-flopping on issues.

While Mr Trump saw the greatest number of overall mentions on social media site Twitter, an analysis showed that 63 per cent of the tweets expressing an opinion on him were negative, according to social media analytics firm Brandwatch.

Location: United States, Michigan, Detroit