For a man who enjoys more than his fair share of controversy, one of the biggest points of controversy of all surrounding GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump — among GOP voters, at least — may be his open and persistent refusal to sign a GOP loyalty pledge.
Who can forget how Trump’s answer to this question at the opening of the first GOP debate sparked audible boos and groans from the audience? And it’s been a nagging worry among GOP leaders and voters alike: that a Trump who’s not chosen as the GOP nominee would go third-party — and likely cost Republicans the election.
Well, today, this worry may be finally put to rest as Donald Trump holds a press conference where he’s expected to announce he’ll sign a GOP loyalty pledge.
As Politico reports:
A close associate tells POLITICO that Donald Trump plans to sign a loyalty pledge Thursday that would bind him to endorse the Republican nominee, and would preclude a third-party run. Trump made the stunning decision, which he has long resisted, to avoid complications in getting listed on primary ballots, and to take away an attack line in the next debate, the associate said.
Trump, who has led the GOP field in poll after poll, has long viewed the threat of a third-party candidacy as priceless leverage – and even used that word when he refused to take such a pledge in the first debate, on Aug. 6.
So his decision to give it up is a sign that he increasingly wants to show his campaign is real and not a stunt. The colorful magnate is also trying to make that point by adding staff in key states, issuing position papers, and pursuing access to primary ballots throughout the country.
Trump is certainly unpredictable, and campaign manager Corey Lewandowski would not confirm the plan. “I don’t think you can ‘expect’ ANYTHING from Mr. Trump,” Lewandowski said in a phone interview.
But the close associate said Trump has decided to give the completed pledge to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus during a meeting at Trump Tower shortly after 1 p.m. today. Trump is scheduled to hold a news conference on an unspecified topic at 2 p.m.
“The rationale is that they have treated him fairly,” the associate said, echoing the criterion Trump has long given for taking a party pledge.
“He’s been treated fairly, like any candidate. … And it takes away a line of attack for debates.”
One of the most memorable moments of the first Republican debate came on the first question, when Fox moderator Bret Baier asked: “Is there anyone on stage — and can I see hands? — who is unwilling tonight to pledge your support to the eventual nominee of the Republican Party and pledge to not run an independent campaign against that person?”
Trump drew some boos when he raised his right hand.
The next debate is Sept. 16, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in southern California. The associate said Trump knew the third-party issue would again be a distraction, so he decided to close that door.
As Trump’s campaign manager reminds us, if there is one thing we cannot do with Donald Trump is EXPECT anything. However, it sure looks like all signs point to a big announcement today that could go a long way toward demonstrating both Trump’s seriousness of purpose and his loyalty to the Republican party. We’ll all be watching, of course!