Fireworks erupted at the outset of the first Republican debate on Thursday night, when Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTed Cruz knocks New York Times for 'stunning' correction on Kavanaugh report US service member killed in Afghanistan Pro-Trump website edited British reality star's picture to show him wearing Trump hat MORE said he wouldn’t pledge not to run as an independent if he doesn’t win the Republican nomination.

ADVERTISEMENT

Anchor Bret Baier asked the field of candidates to raise their hands if they were unwilling to pledge their support to the eventual Republican nominee, and only Trump raised his hand.

“I cannot say [that],” Trump said. “I have to respect the person if it’s not me who wins."

Sen. Rand Paul immediately interjected.

“That’s what’s wrong, he buys and sells politicians of all stripes,” Paul (R-Ky.) said. “He’s already hedging his bet on the Clintons. So if he doesn’t run as a Republican, maybe he supports Clinton, or maybe he runs as an independent. But I’d say he’s already hedging his bets because he’s used to buying politicians.”

Trump responded that he hopes to run as a Republican and support the eventual nominee, but he would not take the third-party option off the table.

“I will not make the pledge at this time,” Trump said.

The celebrity real estate mogul initially brought up the possibility of running as a third-party candidate in an exclusive interview with The Hill in July.

In that interview, he said the chances of an independent run “absolutely” increase if the Republican National Committee is unfair to him during the 2016 primary season.