An independent Donald Trump run in 2016 is the ultimate Republican nightmare scenario. The GOP is already at a demographic disadvantage without a major third-party candidate leeching voters away from the Republican nominee. A third-party run would guarantee a Democratic win in the general election.
The establishment has been trying to nail down an answer to this question from Trump for months. Can they start sleeping soundly at night again?
The Huffington Post reported Wednesday that Trump “told several top Republicans that he will swear off the possibility of an independent bid and commit to running his presidential campaign under the party’s banner.”
Conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt asked Trump about the Huffington Post article on his show:
I want to ask you first, though, because of a story this afternoon in the Huffington Post, you’ve said, you know, you wouldn’t run third party if the GOP treated you fairly. Are they treating you fairly so far?
DT: Well, I didn’t see any story in the Huffington Post. So I don’t know what story that is. What story is that?
HH: It quotes Michael Cohen saying that asked specifically if Trump would be making a formal announcement that he would pledge not to run third party, Cohen replied only Mr. Trump can sign that oath, and when he does, you can rest assured he will live by it. And Mr. Cohen indicated you had, you’d pretty much been happy with the way the GOP had been treating you.
DT: They have been treating me fairly, I think very fairly. And you know, maybe it’s, you see the kind of polls that are coming out. They’ve been so terrific and so high and so wonderful. The one that just came out in New Hampshire, a Public Policy has been, I guess it’s 35%, and way in the lead. And all of them, and so I’m very honored by that, and I will say that the RNC and the Republican Party, I think I’ve been treated very fairly over the last period of time, yes.
HH: So are you ruling out a third party run?
DT: Well, it’s not something I’d want to do, and at some point, I’ll you know, actually totally commit.
You know, I didn’t think it was appropriate to commit during the debate, because it was, you know, just, I was a little surprised by the fact that they even asked me at that debate, but that was okay. But at some point, look, I want to run. I’m leading in the polls by a lot. I want to run as a Republican. I want to get the nomination, and then I want to beat the Democrats, and I think that’s our best chance for a victory. I think we will win. And we have to energize, because you know, last time, sadly, Hugh, a lot of people did not get out and vote. And I still, to this day, don’t understand it. But a lot of the Republicans and a lot of conservatives just never got up to vote. They just weren’t energized, and I think this time, they’re going to be plenty energized.
HH: But I’ve told you before, I’ll just say it again. I think your numbers go up the day you take that pledge.
DT: Well, I’ve been told that by a lot of people. Steve Wynn is a good friend of mine, and he’s a great guy from Las Vegas. You know, he’s done a fantastic job.
HH: Of course.
DT: And he says the same thing. He says when you go and you actually do that, and make that firm, firm commitment, your numbers are going to bounce, and maybe bounce quite a bit. So you’re saying that also. So now I have two very smart people that tell me that.
HH: Well, okay, you can make that announcement anytime in this conversation you’d like.
While Trump still leads the pack among the crowded Republican field according to the latest Quinnipiac poll, he also “tops the ‘no way’ list as 26 percent of Republican voters say they would definitely not support him.” He also has the worst scores among the GOP candidates on honesty: “Trump is not honest and trustworthy, voters say 54 – 38 percent.”
Trump can change his mind, as he so often does. But as for now, he may perhaps be leaning towards ruling it out.