NEW YORK -- Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump announced Thursday he had signed the Republican National Committee’s “pledge” to support the eventual GOP nominee in 2016 if the real estate mogul does not win the nomination himself.
“I will be totally pledging my allegiance to the Republican Party and the conservative principles for which it stands,” Trump said at a press conference Thursday at Trump Tower in Manhattan, holding up the pledge document with his signature on it. “We will go out, and we will fight hard, and we will win. We will win. And most importantly, we will make our country great again, because that’s what it’s all about.”
Trump’s declaration alleviates concern among the Republican establishment that the billionaire real estate mogul would launch an independent bid in the general election, which could make the GOP’s path to victory in 2016 more difficult. At the first Republican debate on August 6, Trump was the only candidate who refused to say he would not run as a third-party candidate if he did not win the Republican nomination.
The so-called pledge, however, is not legally binding and the date on the document both Trump and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus signed was Aug. 3, not Sept. 3. When Trump's spokeswoman handed out photocopies of the pledge after the event, it was a fresh version with the correct date and the space for Priebus' signature is struck through in the distributed version.)
The candidate who boasts at length about his negotiating skills said he "really got nothing" for agreeing to sign the pledge. Still, Trump said he fully intended to abide by it.
"I see no circumstances under which I would tear up that pledge," he told reporters.
The press conference included Trump's usual mix of pomp and circumstance. Campaign staffers handed out folders of to the reporters in attendance filled with copies and graphics of the polls showing Trump in the lead and collages of photos of Trump on the trail. Although a larger space exists upstairs in the Trump Tower Atrium, the press conference was held in the crowded front lobby of the Trump building, where guards struggled to keep a walkway open through the building.
Before the press conference, Trump met with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. “He’s been extremely fair. The RNC has been absolutely terrific over the last two month period,” Trump said of Priebus. “I wanted fairness. I don’t have to be treated any differently than anybody else. I just wanted fairness from the Republican Party."
Priebus did not appear beside Trump at the press conference, a decision Trump said was made so it wouldn't appear the RNC chief was implicitly endorsing the GOP front-runner. "So I suggested, frankly, that I’m fine with him not being here, because I don’t want anybody to think he’s endorsing," Trump said.
Taking questions from reporters, Trump highlighted his lead in the polls, said he will definitely build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico the border and defended his campaign slogan because, he argued, America really could be so much greater if he were in charge.
He also portrayed his rivals as puppets to special interests.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is "going to spend lobbyist money and special interest money, they have total control over Jeb and Hillary and everyone else," Trump said. "In fact I feel a little foolish, people are offering me millions and I keep turning them down. Am I a fool?"
Individuals cannot give millions to any campaign; they can give such large amounts to super PACs, but Trump said during the same press conference he doesn't have a super PAC with any kind of connection to him.
Trump also managed to drop a few names during the appearance.
"I'm very happy for Tom [Brady]," he said, calling the New England Patriots quarterback, whose NFL suspension was overturned on Thursday, an "honorable man " and a great friend.
As for Kanye West, who said during the Video Music Awards last weekend that he plans to run for president in 2020, Trump said: "I will never say bad about him, you know why? 'Cause he loves Trump! He loves Trump. He goes around saying, 'Trump is my all-time favorite.'"