Fox host Bret Baier opened the first debate among the ten men who might be the Republican nominee for president in 2016 with the only question that mattered politically.
“Is there anyone on stage—and can I see hands—who is unwilling tonight to pledge your support to the eventual nominee of the Republican party and pledge to not run an independent campaign against that person?”
“Again,” Baier continued, “we’re looking for you to raise your hand now —raise your hand now if you won’t make that pledge tonight.”
There, in the middle of the stage, stood the frontrunner for the Republican nomination. And he was raising his hand.
“Mr. Trump to be clear, you’re standing on a Republican primary debate stage,” said Baier, apparently surprised that his gotcha question had in fact gotten a candidate.
“I fully understand,” replied the billionaire who has entirely disrupted the Republican race.
Still incredulous, Baier noted that the debate was being held in the Quicken Loan Arena “where the RNC will give the nominee the nod.”
“I fully understand,” replied the billionaire once more.
Baier was not about to casually accept that someone on the stage of a Republican debate was more interested in being president than in being a loyal Republican. Noting that “experts say an independent run would almost certainly hand the race over to Democrats and likely another Clinton,” he was reduced to begging: “You can’t say tonight that you can make that pledge?”
Then Donald Trump said something more politically bold than anything else that was said by any of the 17 candidates who participated in the hours of first-tier and second-tier debating that passed for politics on Thursday night. Indeed, though he may not have known it, Trump made the most politically bold statement of what passes for his political career.
“I cannot say,” said Trump. “I have to respect the person that, if it’s not me, the person that wins.”
Translation: I am not sure I respect some of these guys.
Trump continued: “If I’m the nominee, I will pledge I will not run as an independent.”
Translation: If I am not the nominee, I might run as an independent.
Trump continued: “I’m, you know, talking about a lot of leverage.”
Translation: I’m way ahead in the polls right now and I think that’s because I am a lot more interesting than you guys.