Last year, each of the Republican presidential contenders signed RNC’s “loyalty pledge,” committing the candidates to the party’s nominating process – and its nominee. For months, each of the presidential hopefuls, sometimes grudgingly, vowed to honor the agreement.
This week, however, everything changed. Asked if he still respects the pledge he signed, Donald Trump told a national television audience, “No, I don’t anymore. No.” Soon after, both Ted Cruz and John Kasich suggested that if Trump is the Republican nominee, they’re also prepared to abandon their promise.
It was apparently time for a conversation at the Republican National Committee’s headquarters.
Donald Trump held a private meeting with Republican National Committee officials at the party’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Thursday afternoon.The GOP front-runner tweeted that he had a “very nice” meeting with RNC head Reince Priebus during his nearly hour-long visit. Trump was scheduled to be in the nation’s capital to meet with his foreign policy team, but his appearance at the RNC came as a surprise.
Only the participants know exactly what was said, but the New York Times reported the meeting was “a clearing of the air,” with RNC officials making the case for a constructive relationship with the party’s current frontrunner.
So, where do things stand? Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus appeared on Fox News yesterday afternoon, and dismissed this week’s rhetoric as little more than campaign chest-thumping. The candidates, he said, “are going to posture a little bit as far as what they’re willing to do and who they’re willing to support, who they’re not.”
Priebus added, “What candidates are now portraying out for the public to listen to is, you know, I think a bit of posturing. I’m not really worried about in regards to supporting the eventual nominee or the party.”
In other words, as far as the RNC chair is concerned, it looked like the remaining Republican candidates this week shredded the pledge intended to keep the party together, but they didn’t really abandon their commitment. Everything’s hunky dory in Republican Land after all. Nothing to see here. Move along, move along.
It’s worth appreciating the fact that both sides – which is to say, the Republican Party and the Republican Party’s presidential frontrunner – have an incentive to strive for detente. Priebus, for example, hopes to avoid the unraveling of his party in a presidential election year.
Trump, meanwhile, should realize that if he formally walks away from his party’s loyalty pledge, he risks losing delegates he’ll need to win the nomination.
The result is an awkward dance in which everyone involved tried to keep smiling, as the party is held together with gum, masking tape, and crossed fingers.
Trump said via Twitter that he’s “looking forward to bringing the Party together — and it will happen!” Whether he was trying to convince the public or himself was unclear. The Republican candidate added on Fox last night that RNC officials “wanted to really discuss unity, and I like discussing unity, too.”
The reality, of course, is that Republicans are nowhere near anything that resembles “unity,” though the party’s officials and candidates aren’t in a position where they can stop trying to reach the elusive goal.