Donald Trump Signs the Pledge; Does This Rule Out a Third-Party Run?

From Talking Points Memo
September 3. 3015

Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump announced Thursday in a news conference that he signed a pledge stating he would not run for commander-in-chief as a third-party candidate.

The announcement followed the billionaire’s private meeting with Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus.

“The best way for the Republicans to win is if I win the nomination and go directly against whoever [the Democrats] happen to put up,” Trump told a packed audience of reporters and onlookers in the lobby of New York City’s Trump Tower. “And for that reason, I have signed the pledge.”

In signing the RNC’s loyalty pledge, Trump also vowed to support whoever ends up as the Republican presidential nominee should he not secure the nomination himself.

“So I will be totally pledging my allegiance to the Republican Party and for the conservative principles for which it stands,” the real estate mogul added.

The news conference lasted about 20 minutes as Trump took multiple questions from reporters on everything from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s (R) latest attacks on him to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s court victory over the National Football League.

Priebus was notably absent from the news conference, though. Trump said in response to a question from a reporter that he asked the RNC chairman to steer clear of the event so as not to give the impression that the party was endorsing Trump’s candidacy over those of the other GOP hopefuls.

Read Trump’s statement on signing the loyalty pledge below:

It is my great honor to pledge my total support and loyalty to the Republican Party and the conservative principles for which it stands. This is far and away the best way to secure victory against the Democrats in November 2016. I am leading in all local and national polls — my whole life has been about winning and this is what must be done in order to win the election and, most importantly, to Make America Great Again!


Many of the articles online acknowledged immediately that there was nothing making the pledge binding. USNews says:

Trump said he had “no intention” of changing his mind on the pledge.

But this isn’t a legally binding document and it’s not clear how it could be enforced, if for some reason, he reneges on the agreement later.

“I see no circumstances in which I would tear up that pledge,” he said.

But as the 2016 race has shown so far, circumstances can change quickly and with little warning, especially when they are involving Donald Trump.

Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post says:

But there is absolutely no reason to think that simply by the act of signing this pledge, Trump will somehow be legally bound to not run as anything but a Republican in 2016. He won’t be.

This pledge is not, as my colleague Bob Costa notes, a legally binding document. It’s like the sort of pledge you get your kids to sign that they will do their homework, make their beds and eat their vegetables before they can play with your iPhone. It’s a statement of intention, but not a binding one.

16 thoughts on “Donald Trump Signs the Pledge; Does This Rule Out a Third-Party Run?

  1. Gene Berkman

    Donald Trump has no intention of running as an Independent candidate. He drops hints, and raised his hand at the debate because he knows it will get people to talk about him. And by raising his hand, he got the Chair of the Republican National Committee to beg for his commitment, and The Donald got another media event. So it worked for him.

  2. Andy Craig

    He also gets the benefit that the other candidates take the same pledge. Though most already did, this makes it more explicit that they will endorse and support Trump if he’s the nominee. Which it’s looking increasingly like the powers that be will be unable to prevent from happening.

    In other words, he promises not to do something he wasn’t going to do anyway, and in return they promise not to give him the David Duke treatment if he wins.

  3. Robert CapozziI

    ac: Which it’s looking increasingly like the powers that be will be unable to prevent from happening.

    me: Agreed…at the moment. I just have to believe that the Trump train will wreck, though. While stranger things have happened, I just don’t see the GOP having that much of a death wish.

  4. Robert Capozzi

    jp, here we certainly agree. I’ve noticed that he’s switched tactics in recent days, launching a kind of charm offensive. While he’s completely out of his depths in politics, the man does have some awesome media skills, demagogic ones, for sure.

  5. Gene Berkman

    We can hope that The Donald gets the Republican nomination. This will mean a bigger vote for Gary Johnson, even if he does lose Roger Stone’s vote.

    But really, 30% is not a majority, and poll numbers might not be reflected in primary and caucus votes, since Trump may not have the ground operation to turn out his supporters. And people whose understanding of American politics leads them to support The Donald may not understand how primaries work. So a Trump nomination is still an uphill climb.

  6. George Phillies

    Trump is much more salable to the Republican body politic, as opposed to the right wing nutcakes running against him, than are the right wing nutcakes running against him.

  7. Robert Capozzi

    gp: We can hope that The Donald gets the Republican nomination. This will mean a bigger vote for Gary Johnson, even if he does lose Roger Stone’s vote.

    me: Part of me agrees. But if he gets the nomination, he might somehow get elected. That’s almost as scary as 08 when McCain came somewhat close to controlling the football.

  8. Sean Scallon

    Good graph there Andy.

    I don’t think Trump believes his “pledge” is worth the paper it is written on but I don’t think he feels an independent campaign is worth his time or money. He knows it would be hard to pull off and quite frankly he would be doing so already if that’s what he wanted to do. And in a sense he’s doing it already: an independent campaign to grab the GOP nomination. And for those in the major parties who would complain all I can say is blow off! The insistence you keep for your monopoly on politics compels those who want to play an independent role to seek such recourse. Why should Trump struggle to get ballot access when the majors can routinely miss deadlines and get them extended like it was no big deal? Trump is no fool.

  9. paulie

    I think he could conceivably actually win as an independent. Perot may well have done so in 1992 if he had not dropped in and out. Running as a Republican first gives Trump the advantage of being in the primary debates and getting the resulting media coverage. If he decides to go independent later, the party loyalty pledge has no teeth. However, right now he is actually leading the Republican race, so talk of going independent really only comes into play if that ends up changing.

    Another interesting data point: Republicans who are told that Trump supports government health insurance….then become more likely to themselves favor government health insurance.

  10. Robert Capozzi

    I was under the impression that he would lose the ability to be on the ballot in SC if he didn’t declare as an independent by Sept 30 due to a sore loser rule there. Not a huge electoral setback, but still.

    And I thought Trump reversed his position on single payer. Still, PT Barnum was probably right about suckers.

    Frightening, still, that the guy is a front runner. Then again, it’s crazy clown time…

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