Trump: Why, no, I won't commit to backing the Republican nominee in the general election

Let me toss this thought at you, and if you don’t like it, you can give it right back: Clinton 45, Walker 42, Trump 13.

No, just kidding. That’s unrealistic. What I meant was Clinton 45, Bush 42, Trump 13.

If we’re destined to have another Clinton/Bush election, it’s only right that we have a Perot too.

“So many people want me to run as an independent — so many people,” Trump said. “I have been asked by — you have no idea, everybody wants me to do it. I think the best chance of defeating the Democrats and to make America great again is to win as a Republican because I don’t want to be splitting up votes.”

Pressed about whether he would back the Republican ticket if he fails to win the nomination himself, Trump left the door open for a third-party bid of his own. “I would have to see who the nominee is,” he said…

Trump said he is looking forward to the Republican primary debates, though he has not begun preparing for them.

“I’m not a debater,” he said. “I don’t debate. I build buildings and I grow jobs. These [other candidates] debate every [expletive] night of their life. That’s all they do. They talk.”

Someone on Twitter suggested a few days ago that one way to keep Trump out of the debates would be to force every candidate to pledge to support the eventual GOP nominee as a condition of qualifying. Er, okay, but where does that leave Rand Paul? Is he going to support superhawk Marco Rubio if Rubio’s the nominee? Will Rubio or Lindsey Graham pledge to support Rand if he’s the nominee? I guarantee that some prominent interventionist Republicans will sit this election out or even cross the aisle to back Hillary if Paul wins the race. They’re not going to want to swear allegiance any more than Trump is, and even if they did it in order to qualify for the debates, they’d renege later if need be because “national security is more important than an oath” or whatever. Besides, I have a hard time demanding loyalty from Trump when I plan on staying home myself on election day if we’re forced to choose between two political dynasties for president. Why should anyone commit to supporting any candidate sight unseen?

But look: Let’s everyone calm down about Trump. The biggest effect he’ll have on the GOP race potentially is soaking up disaffected grassroots votes that might otherwise have gone to Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, or, to a lesser extent, Scott Walker or Marco Rubio. He’s Jeb’s best friend in the race and conservatives who like him now for his combativeness on immigration will eventually realize that. By fall, when Iowa and New Hampshire are thinking more seriously about how to vote, Cruz et al. should start to erode Trump’s base. If they don’t then we’ll end up with a centrist, probably Jeb, as nominee. And if that happens and Trump decides to go third-party, then grassroots conservatives will face the same dilemma all over again. Stick with Trump in the general election and risk another independent-enabled Clinton victory over a Bush or grit their teeth and support a more electable RINO-y Republican? Trump is a threat only to the extent that conservatives can’t find anyone they like better in a field filled with formidable candidates, some of them, like Cruz, very solidly conservative. And if some critical mass decides they want to blow up the party because it’s beyond hope, there’s no need to support Trump to do that. Just stay home in the general election and ensure Hillary’s victory that way. There’s nothing to be gained by casting a protest vote for Trump as an independent candidate: The GOP will not, under any circumstances, tack further right on immigration in the 2020 election even if Trump and his base cost them this one. Given the growth of the Latino population, the Republican leadership will move in only one direction on amnesty in years to come. As such, Trump’s candidacy is more of an outlet for “f*** the GOP” sentiment than it is for anything having to do with Trump, or even immigration, specifically.

So lighten up. Worst-case scenario, Trump drops to five percent in Republican polls by Christmas, quits the party to run as an indie, and then ensures a narrow Hillary Clinton victory by promising to build the classiest, most luxurious border fence America’s ever seen thanks to votes from people who were never going to back Jeb Bush anyway. And why would a guy pulling just five percent of GOPers want to bother with a very expensive third-party candidacy anyway? The more he fades in the Republican race, the less likely an independent run is.