LAS VEGAS (Christian Examiner) – Republican frontrunner Donald Trump and the rest of the GOP field split Tuesday night over his controversial comments about Muslim immigration, although the biggest news during the debate may have been his apparent pledge not to run as an independent.
Trump, who is enjoying a big lead nationally and running neck and neck with Ted Cruz in the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, was asked during the closing moments of the GOP's fifth debate whether he was ready to reassure Republicans that he would support the party's nominee, even if it is not him.
"I really am, I'll be honest, I really am," Trump responded. "I've gained great respect for the Republican leadership ... I will tell you: I am totally committed to the Republican Party. I feel very honored to be the front-runner."
Up until Tuesday night, Trump had hinted that he would consider an independent bid for president if didn't win the nomination – a move that likely would split the GOP and conservative vote and give the Democratic nominee, presumably Hillary Clinton, an easy path to the White House.
But while Trump was embracing the party, he remained divided with his fellow Republicans over his controversial comments that Muslims should be prevented from entering the country.
"We are not talking about isolation. ... We're not talking about religion. We're talking about security," Trump responded.
"I don't want our country to be taken away from us, and that's what's happening. The policies that we've suffered under other presidents have been a disaster for our country. We want to make America great again," he said.
Several Republican candidates, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, pushed back against Trump's suggestion to ban Muslims from entering.
"This is not a serious proposal," Bush said. "In fact, it will push the Muslim world, the Arab world, away from us at a time when we need to re-engage with them to be able to create a strategy to destroy ISIS."
Bush called Trump a "chaos candidate" who would "be a chaos president."
"He would not be the commander in chief we need to keep our country safe," Bush added.
Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), who has called Trump's proposal unconstitutional, said he understands why many Americans agree with Trumps proposal. It is, he said, "because this president (Barack Obama) hasn't kept us safe."
"[ISIS] needs to be confronted with serious proposals," Rubio said. "And this is a very significant threat we face. And the president has left us unsafe. He spoke the other night to the American people to reassure us. I wish he hadn't spoken at all. He made things worse. Because what he basically said was we are going to keep doing what we're doing now, and what we are doing now is not working."
Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, also said he understands why Trump made the proposal, although he still disagrees with it.
"I'm reminded of what FDR's grandfather said. He said, 'All horse thieves are Democrats, but not all Democrats are horse thieves. In this instance, there are millions of peaceful Muslims across the world," Cruz said, "... and we should direct at the problem, focus on the problem, and defeat radical Islamic terrorism. It's not a war on a faith; it's a war on a political and theocratic ideology that seeks to murder us."