The three Republican presidential candidates now say they aren’t committing to supporting whomever the party chooses as its nominee for the November election, which could lead to a messy and fractured nominating convention in July.
Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich indicated early in the campaign that they would support the eventual nominee, but they backed off Tuesday night in town hall appearances in Wisconsin hosted by CNN. The state’s primary is next week.
Trump said he was rescinding his promise because “I have been treated very unfairly.” He listed the Republican National Committee, the Republican Party and party establishment among those he believes have wronged him. On ABC on Wednesday, the front-runner added, “I only want the people to support me. ... I will take my chances with the people.”
Cruz said if Trump were the nominee, that would hand the election to Democrat Hillary Clinton. He added, “I’m not in the habit of supporting someone who attacks my wife and children,” Cruz said, referring to Trump’s jabs at his wife, Heidi.
Kasich said that “if the nominee is somebody that I think is really hurting the country and dividing the country, I can’t stand behind them.” But he said he would wait and see how events unfold.
Wisconsin’s April 5 primary looks pivotal in the Republican race. If Cruz wins, it would narrow Trump’s already tight path to the nomination and raise the prospect of a contested party convention. Delegates there might turn to other candidates if the billionaire fails to win on the first ballot.
Trump arrived in Wisconsin fending off another controversy. His campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was charged with misdemeanor battery in Florida on Tuesday over an altercation with a female reporter earlier this month.
Cruz has picked up support from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a former Republican presidential contender.
Trump heads into Wisconsin with 739 delegates to Cruz’s 465. Kasich lags behind with 143. Wisconsin has 42 Republican delegates, with 18 going to the statewide winner and 24 divided among the winners in each of the state’s eight congressional districts
Trump told supporters at a rally that “if we win Wisconsin, it’s pretty much over,” noting his significant delegate lead over both Cruz and Kasich. He would need 1,237 delegates by the end of the primary season to capture the nomination and avoid a contested convention.
Among the Democrats, based on primaries and caucuses to date, Clinton has 1,243 delegates to rival Bernie Sanders’ 975. Including superdelegates, party leaders who are free to support any candidate, Clinton has 1,712 delegates to Sanders’ 1,004, leaving her shy of the 2,383 it takes to win the nomination.
After sweeping three Western state primaries over the weekend, Sanders is hoping to trim Clinton’s commanding lead in the delegate count and claim momentum with a victory in Wisconsin.