(Reuters) – U.S. Republican front-runner Donald Trump warned on Wednesday of riots if he is denied the party’s presidential nomination and pulled the plug on a scheduled debate among candidates, raising the temperature even more in a heated White House race.
The outspoken New York businessman scored big wins in primaries in Florida, Illinois and North Carolina on Tuesday, bringing him closer to the 1,237 convention delegates he needs to win the nomination.
Trump also claimed victory in Missouri but lost the crucial state of Ohio, and left the door open for those in the party trying to stop him from becoming the Republican nominee for the Nov. 8 election.
Trump might fall short of the majority of delegates required, enabling the party’s establishment to put forward another name at the July convention in Cleveland to formally pick its candidate.
In an interview with CNN on Wednesday, Trump said the party could not deny him the nomination should he fail to win enough delegates.
“I don’t think you can say that we don’t get it automatically. I think you’d have riots. I think you’d have riots. I’m representing many, many millions of people.”
While the Republicans were mired deeper in turmoil, Hillary Clinton won victories in at least four states on Tuesday that put her in good shape to defeat U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and win the Democratic Party’s nomination.
Republican Party leaders are appalled at Trump’s incendiary rhetoric and reject policies such as his vow to deport 11 million illegal immigrants, temporarily ban Muslims from the United States and build a wall along the Mexican border.
The party tried to play down his riot comments, only days after Trump supporters and protesters clashed at a rally for the Republican in Chicago that was later scrapped.
“First of all, I assume he is speaking figuratively. If we go into a convention, whoever gets 1,237 delegates becomes the nominee. It’s plain and simple,” Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer told CNN.