Controversy started early in the main GOP presidential debate when moderator Bret Baier asked the candidates during the first question to raise their hands if they would not pledge to avoid a third-party run.
Only frontrunner Donald Trump, who has threatened to do just that, raised his hand.
"Mr. Trump, to be clear," Baier said, "you're standing on … the place where the RNC will give the nominee the nod."
"I fully understand," Trump said.
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Baier said that experts say and independent run would almost certainly give the election to the Democrats, likely their current frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
"You can't say tonight that you can make that pledge?" Baier asked.
"I cannot say," Trump said. "I have to respect the person that if it's not me, the person that wins. If I do win and I'm leading by quite a bit, that's what I want to do."
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who has lost support since his April announcement, jumped in.
"This is what's wrong," Paul said. "He buys and sells politicians of all stripes."
Ignoring Bair's attempt to stop him, Paul charged on, saying Trump is "already hedging his bet on the Clintons. … If he doesn't run as a Republican, maybe he supports Clinton or maybe he runs as an independent. But I tell you, he's already hedging his bets because he's used to buying politicians."
Trump shirked off Paul's comments, saying, "I've given you plenty of money."
Baier said the debate would be moving on, but asked Trump one more time if he would be making the pledge not to run third party.
"I will not make the pledge at this time," Trump said.
Trump has appeared to waffle on the issue over the past few weeks, saying that he would not run third party as long as he is respected by the party.
As to Paul's accusation that he buys politicians, Trump has admitted he has contributed to candidates of both parties, largely because he needs them to stay out of his way with regulations when he tries to do business. He called the process wrong and said he would work to stop it as president.
Paul also likely was making reference to the story that made news on Wednesday that Trump spoke by phone to former President Bill Clinton in late May.
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