Rubio, Kasich may not back Trump as party nominee
search

Rubio, Kasich may not back Trump as party nominee

Candidates say front-runner’s divisive, ‘toxic’ rhetoric is making it increasingly hard for them to support him, if elected by GOP

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, speaks to the media before he speaks to a crowd at Mount Paran Christian School, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, in Kennesaw, Georgia. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, speaks to the media before he speaks to a crowd at Mount Paran Christian School, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, in Kennesaw, Georgia. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

VANDALIA, Ohio (AP) — Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio and John Kasich suggested Saturday they may not support Donald Trump if he becomes the GOP nominee, as violence at the front-runner’s rallies deepened the party’s chaotic chasm.

Tensions ran high at Trump’s latest rally, when Secret Service agents briefly formed a protective ring around the presidential candidate, then left the stage and allowed him to continue speaking at an airport hangar outside Dayton, Ohio.

A defiant Trump has denied that he has encouraged violence at his events. But the scenes from his aborted rally in Chicago on Friday night appeared to be a final straw for some rivals who had pledged, despite deep concerns about his qualifications, to support the billionaire businessman if he were to become the nominee.

Rubio told The Associated Press that Trump is driving apart “both the party and the country so bitterly” that he may not be able to support the billionaire if he’s the Republican nominee.

“It’s an ongoing pattern,” Rubio said. “And it’s clear to me that he knows what he’s doing.”

Kasich, the Ohio governor, said the “toxic environment” Trump is creating “makes it very, extremely difficult” to support him.

Republican presidential candidate Ohio Gov. John Kasich greets South Carolina voters after delivering remarks aboard the USS Yorktown during a campaign appearance on February 19, 2016 in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP)
Republican presidential candidate Ohio Gov. John Kasich greets South Carolina voters after delivering remarks aboard the USS Yorktown during a campaign appearance on February 19, 2016 in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP)

“To see Americans slugging themselves at a political rally deeply disturbed me,” Kasich said while campaigning in Cincinnati. “We’re better than that.”

The extraordinary shift by the two came just a few days before Tuesday’s elections in five delegate-rich states, including their home states of Florida and Ohio.

The only candidate to stand by his pledge to support Trump if he becomes the nominee was Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who is closest to the businessman in the delegate count.

“I committed at the outset, I will support the Republican nominee, whoever it is,” Cruz told reporters Saturday.

President Barack Obama, speaking at a Democratic fundraiser in Dallas, said those who aspire to lead the country “should be trying to bring us together and not turning us against one another.” He said leaders should also “speak out against violence”

“If they refuse to do that, they don’t deserve our support,” he said.

Trump insisted he’d done nothing to exacerbate tensions, despite having previously encouraged his supporters to aggressively — and sometimes physically — stop protesters from interrupting his raucous rallies.

Trump told CNN late Friday: “I don’t take responsibility. Nobody’s been hurt at our rallies.”

He did several interviews as cable networks broadcast footage of the skirmishes both inside and outside the Chicago arena where he had planned to speak.

At the event near Dayton, the audience chanted Trump’s name as agents rushed the stage. Trump did not explain what had happened, but said: “Thank you for the warning. I was ready for ’em, but it’s much better if the cops do it, don’t we agree?”

Trump also had stops scheduled Saturday in Cleveland and Kansas City, Missouri.

The brash billionaire’s unexpected political success has roiled the Republican Party. Most leaders expected his populist appeal would fade as voting contests began and largely avoided criticizing even his most extreme comments out of fear of alienating his supporters.

But after 24 primary elections and caucuses, Trump remains the front-runner and leads his rivals in the all-important delegate count.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump signs autographs for supporters at the conclusion of a Trump rally at Millington Regional Jetport on February 27, 2016 in Millington, Tennessee. (Michael B. Thomas/AFP)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump signs autographs for supporters at the conclusion of a Trump rally at Millington Regional Jetport on February 27, 2016 in Millington, Tennessee. (Michael B. Thomas/AFP)

GOP leaders are grasping for a last-ditch idea to stop Trump from claiming the nomination. They’ve talked about a contested convention and about whether to rally around a yet-to-be-determined third-party candidate. All are long shots at best and would probably rip the Republican Party apart.

Rubio and Kasich must win their home state contests Tuesday to stay in the race and try to chip away at Trump’s delegate lead.

The chaos in Chicago was sparked in part by Trump’s decision to cancel his rally after skirmishes broke out in the crowd that, unlike past Trump events, was packed with protesters — many of whom had organized ahead of time with the intent of keeping Trump from speaking.

Many anti-Trump attendees had rushed onto the floor of the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavilion, jumping up and down with their arms up in the air after the event was called off. Some isolated confrontations took place afterward and police reported arresting five people.

As Trump attempts to unify a fractured Republican Party before Tuesday’s slate of winner-take-all primary elections, the confrontations between his legion of loyal supporters and protesters who accuse him of stoking racial hatred have become increasingly contentious, underscoring concerns about the divisive nature of his candidacy.

In a telephone interview after postponing his event in Chicago, Trump said he didn’t “want to see people hurt or worse” at the rally, telling MSNBC, “I think we did the right thing.”

But Chicago police said they had sufficient manpower on scene to handle the situation and did not recommended Trump cancel the rally. That decision was made “independently” by the campaign, said police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.

 

 

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.

Join us!
A message from the Editor of Times of Israel
David Horovitz

The Times of Israel covers one of the most complicated, and contentious, parts of the world. Determined to keep readers fully informed and enable them to form and flesh out their own opinions, The Times of Israel has gradually established itself as the leading source of independent and fair-minded journalism on Israel, the region and the Jewish world.

We've achieved this by investing ever-greater resources in our journalism while keeping all of the content on our site free.

Unlike many other news sites, we have not put up a paywall. But we would like to invite readers who can afford to do so, and for whom The Times of Israel has become important, to help support our journalism by joining The Times of Israel Community. Join now and for as little as $6 a month you can both help ensure our ongoing investment in quality journalism, and enjoy special status and benefits as a Times of Israel Community member.

Become a member of The Times of Israel Community
read more:
comments