Could it be another flip-flip? Could it be that Christmas has come early? ABC News is reporting that Donald Trump could take the pledge to not run as a third party candidate, a pledge he refused to take during the first GOP debate in Cleveland on August 6 (via ABC News):
Donald Trump may soon do what Republican leaders have been asking the billionaire candidate to do -- pledge not to run as an independent candidate for president, a senior Trump adviser told ABC News.
Trump has repeatedly said he wants to run as a Republican and expects to win the GOP nomination, but he has also insisted that if he is not treated well by party leaders and does not get the nomination he may run as an independent.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has directly called on all candidates to pledge not to make a third-party run. The Republican Party has leverage here: senior GOP officials say it is possible that future debates could be limited to candidates who have pledged support for the party -- a move that could leave Trump out of debates if he is still leaving open the possibility of running as an independent.
Mr. Trump has been toying with the idea of running as an independent. He initially told The Blaze’s Dana Loesch that he wouldn’t entertain a third party candidacy, a position that changed in less than 36 hours. However, a Bloomberg poll found–unsurprisingly–that a significant proportion of Trumpites would back his independent run, which would ultimately end with Hillary Clinton winning the 2016 election.
Right now, Trump is the GOP frontrunner. He tapped into the anger of the electorate who sees disorder at the border and a dysfunctional political class in Washington. There’s also the alleged lawlessness that emanates from the Obama administration, which most in the GOP base probably feel as well, that’s fueling the Trump surge. President Obama’s executive actions on immigration and delaying the employer mandate for Obamacare haven’t mitigated that narrative; the latter being perilously close to violating separation of powers.
At the same time, Mr. Trump’s lead in the polls could be his wide name recognition, which is the only thing one should read from the latest string of polls this early in the 2016 season. Mr. Trump has been in the public eye for years, he was featured on a hit reality series, he was featured on WWE, and he’s enjoyed enormous coverage by the press, specifically the Big Three (ABC, NBC, and CBS). The Media Research Center crunched the numbers:
Media Research Center analysts reviewed every ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts from January 1 through July 31, including weekends, and tallied all discussion of each declared or prospective GOP presidential candidate. They found that the Big Three have devoted a combined 116 minutes to coverage of Trump’s campaign, far more than the 72 minutes garnered by the Bush campaign.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was a distant third, with 28 minutes of airtime. Other major candidates, such as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio all received less than 20 minutes of airtime on the three network evening shows
They also note that most of the coverage is critical, but if Trump is trolling the field, like Nate Silver has mentioned, then it still doesn’t matter; trolls know how to maximize all forms of publicity to their advantage. Additionally, as you saw from the fallout from Mr. Trump being disinvited to the 2015 RedState Gathering in Atlanta hosted by Erick Erickson, his supporters will march to the gates of hell for this man. Do you really think they care about whether the coverage is positive or negative? Okay. Maybe they do a little bit, but any negative media attention Trump gets is the nefarious inner machinations of the news media in their minds. And Mr. Trump has made horrible remarks about Fox News’ Megyn Kelly and fellow 2016 candidate Carly Fiorina, but the billionaire magnate is so far unapologetic, which, again, adds to his appeal among his supporters. He has since said he would be “phenomenal to the women.”
Yet, getting back to Mr. Trump’s third run, Ed Morrissey outlined why the billionaire magnate might be changing his tune:
This looks a bit like someone at the RNC — Reince Preibus, presumably — has let it known that he’s prepared to call Trump’s bluff on a third-party run. It takes a tremendous amount of resources to pull that off, and Trump hasn’t even begun to put together a traditional primary organization, let alone something on that scale. Republicans and Democrats have state organizations in place to get their nominees on ballots, but an independent Trump would have to do that by himself in all 50 states.(H/T Ed Morrissey)
Ross Perot started working on that early on in the 1992 cycle, in part by spending millions of his own money and in part by building coalitions with existing minor parties in some states to build what became the Reform Party. Thus far, there has been little evidence that Trump plans to invest much money or effort into his campaign. He spent $1.8 million in the second quarter, all but $93,000 of it his own money, and none of it on significant organization. He’s going in cheap thus far, but if Preibus cuts him out of the debates and access to the data, he’d either have to start spending and raising money prodigiously to compete or bail out.
At this point, it’s easier to take the pledge. The question will be whether anyone can call Trump’s bluff at that point. If he pledges no third-party run, the RNC will have to give him the same access as the other campaigns, and later Trump can come up with a rationalization for breaking the pledge if he wants. But that threat will force Trump to either get serious or get out.
This could all change within minutes, hours, or even days. Stay tuned.
BONUS: Trump performing "Green Acres" at the 2006 Emmys.