The Buzz

Trump, Cruz, Kasich pledge allegiance to themselves, not GOP nominee

The pen may be mightier than the sword, but it feels a bit dated compared to a to the deftly deployed Twitter account.

Then again, if that pen is in the hands of a young reporter at Donald Trump’s elbow after a press conference, it apparently poses a different threat.

And if our pen is used to sign a pledge to back whomever wins the Republican Party’s nomination, well, pens and oaths and political loyalty are so 2015.

CNN held another town hall Tuesday night with the remainder of the Republican field. This one came in Milwaukee ahead of next week’s winner-take-all Wisconsin primary.

Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich all said they could no longer promise they’d back the eventual winner.

Trump thinks the party is cheating his voters by insisting on a majority, rather than just a plurality, to triumph at the convention.

Cruz says he couldn’t back Trump after all the New York real estate man has said about Cruz’s wife.

Kasich, the mellow Ohioan standing outside their latest so’s-your-old-lady exchange, said “all of us shouldn’t even have answered that (loyalty) question” six months ago.

Meantime, the town hall took place the same day Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was charged with simple assault involving a reporter last month.

For those catching up: At the close of a Trump press conference at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, reporter Michelle Fields tried to ask the candidate a question as he was leaving the room. At the time, she was working for Breitbart.com, a conservative outlet far friendlier toward Trump than other right-leaning media.

She said at the time that Lewandowski bruised her forearm by yanking her away from Trump and nearly tossing her to the floor. She later filed a police report that led to Tuesday’s charges. Her account was supported by a Washington Post reporter at the scene. Fields ultimately left Breitbart when she felt her bosses didn’t support her in the wake of the incident.

Team Trump has denied she was manhandled. Most recently, including at the town hall, the candidate has wondered aloud if she posed some threat and if she was carrying something dangerous. “What,” he asks in a tweet with a picture from the moment, “is in her hand.”

At the town hall, he suggested it might be “a little bomb.”

It looks to be a pen. Trump is under the protection of the Secret Service these days, so she’d have been screened for weapons.

The New York Daily News headlined the story “Battery Rap for Trump Thug.”

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Cruz, not one who typically speaks glowingly of reporters, said, “It shouldn’t be complicated that members of the campaign staff should not be physically assaulting the press.” He and Cruz said Trump should dump Lewandowski from the campaign.

The Washington Post has been aggressive on the story — and siding against Trump on the facts. It’s put together various video that gives the sense that the reporter was at the candidate’s elbow trying to ask him a question when Lewandowski pulls her away.

Jim Newell at Slate argues Trump will stick with Lewandowski rather than fire him for “battering a female reporter.”

Most candidates, he contends, would find a way to rid the camp of a controversial manner. But that would be so un-Trump.

“The path of his campaign is so strewn with incidents that would have buried a mere mortal, but with which he’s gotten away, that his ability to get away with things has itself become a meta source of support,” Newell wrote. “It implies dominance over his rivals—on the campaign trail, in the media, and in the world at large—and a certain segment of the Republican voter base appears to crave that above all in its presidential candidate.”

But this frontrunner didn’t get to be this frontrunner by acting much like any frontrunner before. He’d threatened to sit out Tuesday’s sessions because CNN hadn’t treated him well enough. He skipped a Fox News Channel debate shortly before the Iowa caucuses after saying that the fair-and-balanced network wasn’t fair.

Scott Canon: 816-234-4754, @ScottCanon

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