From the very beginning of the first GOP presidential debate, Donald Trump was in the spotlight and under fire from Fox News commentators. The first question asked for a show of hands of all candidates who would not pledge to support the Republican presidential nominee. Only Donald Trump raised his hand, which led to the first of many confrontations during the debate. He was challenged by moderator Brett Baier and lambasted by Senator Rand Paul for “buying and selling politicians.” While Trump declared that he wants to “run as the Republican nominee,” he is wise to keep his options open.
The Republican establishment is terrified of Trump, who can finance a third party campaign and is independent of special interests. They will continue to mercilessly attack him, hence Trump is smart to maintain “leverage” and keep open the third party alternative.
It may also provide a needed choice for the American people. If the presidential nominees are Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Jeb Bush, or another RINO, Trump should enter the race to give voters a real alternative. The last thing the country needs is another Bush or Clinton in the White House.
In fact, in a three-way race between Clinton, Bush and Trump, there is a possibility that Trump may win. There is great dissatisfaction with political dynasties and millions of Americans would refuse to vote for either Clinton or Bush, giving a well-funded third party candidate like Trump a chance.
There is certainly precedent for a strong third party candidacy. In 1992, Texas businessman Ross Perot was leading the presidential race before he exited amid claims that he did not want to throw the election into the House of Representatives. He later said he left the race because he was concerned that Republicans were planning to disrupt his daughter’s wedding. When he returned to the campaign months later, his prospects were severely diminished. Nevertheless, he finished with almost 19% of the vote, the highest third party total since Theodore Roosevelt in 1912.
Unlike Perot, who destroyed his chances when he abandoned the race, Trump would be a more formidable third party contender. He has universal name recognition, billions of dollars to spend, and no need to placate special interests or big donors. Clearly, the GOP establishment, and their media lapdogs, will try to destroy his chances. This is exactly what happened during the Fox News debate. After being immediately confronted on the third party question, Trump spent the rest of the debate fending off queries about his bankruptcies, his stand on abortion and Obamacare, his treatment of women, and his previous support of Democrat candidates. Throughout it all, Trump stayed on the offensive and refused to apologize.
This stance was extremely popular with the vast conservative audience of the Drudge Report website. After 531,000 votes were tabulated, Trump was declared the winner by over 45% of the voters, far outpacing second place finisher Senator Ted Cruz who received just 14% of the vote. While the public loved Trump's performance, so-called experts such as analyst Charles Krauthammer and pollster Frank Luntz panned The Donald's showing. In true Trump fashion, he blasted Luntz as a “low class slob.”
Clearly, Trump's best chance for victory would be as the GOP nominee. Obviously, he would prefer to win the Republican nomination; however, he may be subjected to impossible hurdles as the race progresses.
While a third party candidacy is not the ideal scenario for Trump, he definitely needs to keep it as an option as the race progresses. It is too early to determine what will happen, but we do know that since Donald Trump is involved, practically everyone will be watching.