These rumors started brewing last week, when Bush aides began whispering to reporters about the possibility that their candidate might publicly foreswear supporting Donald Trump as the GOP nominee. Then Jeb himself confirmed that his campaign had looked into the potential ramifications of trying to wriggle out of the party loyalty pledge he signed -- which he publicly affirmed in response to the very first question of the very first Republican debate in Cleveland. Remember this?
That was back before Trump finally agreed that he'd been "treated fairly" enough to sign the pledge, which he's since threatened to abandon, only to restate his firm commitment in the most recent debate. If you're displeased with Trump's latest stance on bolting the party, just wait five minutes. By declining to raise their hands when prompted by Fox New anchor Bret Baier, every other candidate on stage that night made a promise to voters: No matter who is nominated, they'd throw their backing behind his or her campaign, and would rule out an independent run. Ironically, that question was crafted specifically for Trump, but now it applies at least as much to moderates like Bush and Kasich as it does to the capricious frontrunner. If you're seeking the Republican nomination, and if you've vowed to endorse and support the Republican nominee, you shouldn't go back on your word -- neither out of genuine frustration and disgust, nor as a campaign tactic. Not only would this be a breach of trust, it would reek of spite. Trump's been smacking Jeb around as a low energy loser for weeks; if the former governor were to follow through on this quasi-threat, Trump could tweak his taunt and cast Bush as a low energy sore loser. Jeb and friends have spent tens of millions of dollars so far, yet the campaign has failed to gain traction with voters (to put it kindly). Reneging on the pledge now would be akin to pouting in the corner -- yet another indignity. Sure, guys like Bush and Kasich could use Trump's odious conduct and controversial proposals as a fig leaf to justify their potential reversals, but that would require them to feign shock that Donald Trump is comporting himself like...Donald Trump has always comported himself. Plus, it would infuriate a large segment of the Republican base, who would accuse the establishment of demanding party unity in support of "safe" nominees, then refusing to abide by the same standard when they don't get their way. In any case, here's Jeb insisting that he really couldn't stand being the frontrunner and is actually quite comfortable languishing in fifth place in the mid-single digits, thank you very much:
By the way, who's up for a third party run from 2012 flameout Jon Huntsman? He says he's "not ready" to go that route...yet:
UPDATE - Third party chatter from Bill Kristol: