It’s become increasingly easy to imagine Donald Trump on this year’s presidential ballot. The lingering question is whether voters will see an “R” or an “I” after his name.
For a few months last summer, Trump openly flirted with the possibility of a third-party, independent presidential campaign, and in the process caused even more Republican heartburn than his candidacy was already producing. In September, however, Trump effectively ended the suspense, signing a “loyalty pledge” that committed the New York Republican to the party’s nominating process.
But there was some wiggle room. Trump said, repeatedly, that he would honor the agreement so long as Republicans treated him “fairly.” He never specified exactly what “fairly” meant – apparently, he knows it when he sees it – but the candidate’s rhetoric suggested he always saw a way out of his promise.
Yesterday, The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., reported on Trump latest comments on the matter.
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump did not close the door Monday on a possible third-party run, accusing the Republican National Committee of breaking its pledge to stay neutral in the race.“The RNC is in default,” Trump said during a news conference here. “When somebody is in default, that means the other side can do what they have to do.”
He added, in reference to RNC officials, “We have warned them twice and they don’t listen. The bottom line is that the RNC is controlled by the establishment and the RNC is controlled by the special interests and the donors. And that’s too bad. That’s why the Republicans for president has lost so much for so long.”
The motivation for Trump’s anger appears to be the way in which tickets were distributed to Saturday night’s debate in South Carolina. There’s some evidence party insiders ensured establishment-friendly voters filled the seats – Trump and Ted Cruz were repeatedly booed during the event, while Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio were cheered – while the Republican National Committee insists the party did not stack the deck in favor of donors and allied lobbyists.
The argument can and probably will continue, but the overarching question is what Trump intends to do about his dissatisfaction.
If Trump, who easily won the New Hampshire primary after a second-place finish in Iowa, continues to do well, the “what if?” question will be moot, and Trump will continue to move forward as the frontrunner for the Republican nomination.
But if he falters, and an establishment-friendly candidate becomes better positioned to prevail, it’ll probably time to revisit those sore-loser laws we talked about in August.