WASHINGTON (AP) — Seeking to avert a 2016 disaster, the Republican National Committee on Wednesday challenged every GOP presidential candidate to sign a pledge not to undertake a third-party bid under any circumstances.
The challenge, confirmed by multiple campaigns, is aimed squarely at Donald Trump. And the timing of the pledge suggests an agreement has been reached.
While he is leading the packed Republican field in early polls, the billionaire businessman last month repeatedly threatened to launch a third-party bid — leaving open the possibility even at the GOP's first presidential debate last month — should he fail to claim the Republican presidential nomination. Such a decision would make it all but impossible for the Republican Party to win the White House in 2016.
RNC officials have been working privately with Trump's campaign for several weeks to avert such a scenario.
While neither side would publicly confirm late Wednesday that an agreement had been reached, Trump has hinted in recent days the GOP lobbying was beginning to work.
The Trump campaign did not respond to questions about the pledge late Wednesday. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus is set to meet privately with Trump at his campaign headquarters in New York City shortly before Trump is scheduled to address reporters. The meeting was confirmed by two RNC officials who weren't authorized to discuss the plan publicly and requested anonymity.
In recent days, Trump has suggested he would soon decide whether to rule out a third-party bid.
"I think a lot of people are going to be very happy," he said Saturday in Nashville.
Several candidates contacted late Wednesday confirmed that they would sign the pledge, among them Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, although few doubted the intentions of the vast majority of the GOP's 17 presidential contenders.
The Republican National Committee's pledge asks candidates to promise to "endorse the 2016 Republican presidential nominee regardless of who it is."
Further, it asks them to pledge "that I will not seek to run as an independent or write-in candidate, nor will I seek or accept the nomination for president of any other party."
An RNC spokesman declined to comment.