The first Republican debate since the battles of Super Tuesday opened with a volley of insults and innuendo and the sight of Donald Trump seemingly bragging about the size of his genitals
In exchanges more accustomed to Saturday night comedy shows, Mr Trump referred to comments his rival Marco Rubio had made last week in which he said the tycoon had small hands and that people knew “what they say about people with small hands”.
On Thursday night, Mr Trump held up his hands and said no-one had ever before suggested they were small. “He said if my hands were small, then something else is small,” he said. “I guarantee there is no problem.”
The bizarre turn during the 11th Republican debate came as Mr Trump was repeatedly attacked by rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
Mr Trump was forced to insist that he was still tough on immigration following claims he told the New York Times in an off-the-record briefing that he was far more flexible on the immigration issue than many believed.
Asked directly whether he would release the recording of the meeting, he said: “I did have a meeting with the New York Times editorial board. I think being off the record is very important. I will honour it.”
He added: “But I will say that in immigration as well as with anything else, there has been to be tug and pull. You have to be able to have some flexibility. I may have said something like that with the New York Times. But I am not going to release something off the record.”
Mr Cruz said: “You could resolve this issue very easily by releasing the tapes. If you went to Manhattan and said this, the voters have a right to know.”
The debate also higlighted the big problem facing the Republican Party was also exposed when Mr Trump’s rivals admitted they would all back him if he wins the race.
Mr Rubio, Mr Cruz and John Kasich all pledged they will support Mr Trump if he wins the Republican nomination.
Mr Rubio said that he is committed to his party and therefore would support the nominee.
Mr Cruz said he would prefer Mr Trump to either of the Democratic contenders, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, describing the latter as a "socialist".
Mr Kasich was the most hesitant, but ultimately said that while "sometimes (Trump) makes it a little bit hard," he would support him if he is the nominee.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies