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How Republican rivals reacted to violence at Donald Trump's rallies

Republican presidential candidates, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Ohio Gov. John Kasich stand onstage at the end of their debate on CNN.
Republican presidential candidates, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Ohio Gov. John Kasich stand onstage at the end of their debate on CNN.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Just weeks ago, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich all affirmed a pledge to back Donald Trump if he emerged as the Republican nominee.

But after violence broke out at several Trump rallies this weekend — with an event in Chicago shut down over safety concerns — the other candidates have begun to change their tune.

Marco Rubio, who is perhaps the furthest from securing the nomination at this point, rebuked the frontrunner with his strongest criticisms to date.

He said Trump has no excuse for inciting violence in response to anger. "There are other people that are angry too," Rubio said at a press conference in Largo, Florida. "If they speak out and say whatever they want, the result is it all breaks down. It’s called chaos."

When a reporter asked at the same event whether Rubio still intended to back Trump, Rubio said he did, "but it’s getting harder every day."

That raises the question: Where do the other Republican presidential candidates stand in their support of the race’s current frontrunner?

Kasich, who is currently neck and neck with Trump in his home state of Ohio, similarly condemned the recent instances of violence.

"There is no place for this," Kasich said at a Saturday press conference. "There is no place for a national leader to prey on the fears of those who live in this great country."

Like Rubio, he wavered on his pledge to remain behind Trump no matter what. The violence "makes it very difficult," he told reporters. "Let’s just take a deep breath and see where it goes."

Cruz also spoke out against his chief rival for the nomination — though his criticism sounded a touch more staid than either Rubio or Kasich. He said simply that Trump is partly to blame for the culture he has created at his rallies.

"In any campaign, the responsibility starts at the top," he said on ABC's This Week. "And it is not beneficial when you have a candidate like Donald Trump, who's telling his protesters, 'Punch that guy in the face.'"

Even so, he did not back down from a commitment to back Trump as the Republicans’ standard-bearer. "I committed at the outset," Cruz said on Saturday at a stop in Missouri. "I will support the Republican nominee, whoever it is."

But even Cruz has limits."If, for example, he were to go out on Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, I would not be willing to support Donald Trump," he said at a press conference.