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Rivals to endorse Trump if nominated, despite trading insults at debate

The 11th Republican debate in the US election ended with a surprise as Donald Trump's rivals promised to support any eventual nominee. The Republican party is split over whether to support the contentious tycoon.

Florida senator Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz of Texas and John Kasich, Governor of Ohio, sought to attack brash billionaire Donald Trump on Thursday night in Detroit, Michigan. Trump has won 10 of 15 primaries so far in the race for the White House.

The 11th televised debate of the Republican party's presidential hopefuls, broadcast on Fox News, made for many a cringeworthy moment, one of which involved Trump's hands and manhood.

In a bizarre attack, Rubio had said Trump's hands were small, to which Trump replied. "He referred to my hands - if they're small, something else must be small. I guarantee you there is no problem."

This and other comments were also debated on Twitter, with many users commenting on the low standard of the debate.

Rubio excused his own attacks by insisting it was Trump who opened the flood gates. "Donald Trump has basically mocked everybody with personal attacks," Rubio said.

Presenter Megyn Kelly, whom Trump had famously clashed with in the first televised debate, asked the billionaire if he was now more flexible on immigration policy than he had let on previously. She said that voters may be confused since he had been changing his mind on issues such as the conflicts in Afghanistan and Syria as well as immigration.

To which Trump replied that "I have never seen a successful person that doesn't have some degree of flexibility." The word 'flexible' and a remark by Cruz telling Trump to 'breathe' and not interrupt him, led to a moment of levity when Rubio chimed in with "when they're done with the yoga, can I answer a question?"

Trump said he had changed his mind to support admitting more highly skilled workers from overseas, adding matter-of-factly, "I'm changing. I'm changing. We need highly skilled people in this country."

Rubio as well as Cruz pressed Trump on his conservative credentials, sharply criticizing him for not producing enough goods in the US and employing foreigners instead of Americans at his Palm Beach resort.

Trump once again insisted that waterboarding and other torture methods should be used in interrogations. Military officials have already said they would not engage with him because of these views. During Thursday's debate, Trump remained defiant, saying "if I say do it, they are going to do it."

Ahead of the debate, former presidential candidate

Mitt Romney, who lost to Barack Obama in 2012, attacked Trump,

calling him an unelectable "fraud" and a "phony," whose nomination would ensure victory for Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in the November 8 election.

Romney is the latest in a string of high-profile Republicans seeking to

prevent Trump

from becoming the GOP's candidate. However, at the end of Thursday's debate, Trump's rivals said they would endorse any eventual nominee, including Trump.

Trump currently leads the field with 329 delegates. Cruz has 231, Rubio 110 and Kasich 25. It takes 1,237 delegates to win the Republican nomination for president.

ng/kms (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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