Report: Trump tells GOP leaders he won't run as an independent

Finally, some Trump-related news that fans and critics can each celebrate. If you’re a fan, a third-party run was always going to be an exercise in narcissism destined to fail. If you’re a critic, you’re far better off trying to stop Trump in the primaries and accepting the small risk of him winning the nomination than you are having him go indie and creating a huge risk that he’ll torpedo the GOP nominee’s chances in the general. No one wins with Trump going third-party — not Trump, not populists, not the establishment. The only winner is Clinton 2.0.

If you believe HuffPo, the man’s made his choice. We can trust Donald Trump to be true to his word, can’t we?

Businessman Donald Trump has told several top Republicans that he will swear off the possibility of an independent bid and commit to run his presidential campaign under the party’s banner, according to several sources…

Michael Cohen, a top Trump aide, did not go so far as to confirm that the businessman would make the step of forsaking a run as an independent. But he did tell the Huffington Post that Trump never had “any intent” of running as anything other than a Republican.

“He just wanted to ensure that the establishment would treat him as fair as they would treat any of the other candidates,” Cohen said. “And I believe right now they are treating him fairly. It is my personal belief that the RNC is treating Mr. Trump the same as the other candidates and he will live up to his agreement not to run as an independent.”

Roger Ailes thought he had a deal with Trump too, noted one GOP operative, until he turned around and started attacking Megyn Kelly again. Like I said yesterday, the silver lining for critics in Trump’s soaring polls is that the more convinced he is that he has a legit chance at the GOP nomination, the less reason he has to leave the party and play impish spoiler. If he was crawling along in third place, say, with 10 percent of the vote and looking up at Jeb Bush as he consolidates centrist voters, he might already be gaming out a “Stop Bush” indie campaign. Better to quit the GOP race early in that case and avoid the indignity of losing to Bush in Iowa or New Hampshire and focus on the third-party bid. Instead he’s leading the field and getting saturation media coverage. He’s invested in his Republican stature now, at a moment when various state GOPs are demanding a commitment to supporting the nominee as a condition of qualifying for the primary ballot. Even if he’s willing to go back on his alleged promise and run as an indie later should his lead in the GOP race start to crumble, the longer he continues in the party’s primary, the greater the perception will be that he’s a sore loser if he jumps ship later. That wouldn’t necessarily prevent Trump from spoiling the GOP nominee’s chance at the White House, but you wonder how well his ego would handle the media’s new narrative in that case that he’s an embittered clown out for revenge against a candidate he couldn’t beat fair and square.

Then again, unless he really does win the nomination, we’re destined for several “What destructive form will Trump’s anguish over his ego-smashing impending defeat take?” news cycles regardless. That’s why I keep thinking that unless he’s way ahead in one or more of the early states come New Year’s, he’ll find an excuse to drop out and spend the rest of the campaign sniping at the GOP field from the sidelines, assuring everyone that he would have won if only he’d hung around. The Trump brand can’t absorb the risk of humiliating public defeat to someone from a group of people he’s already dismissed as losers and phonies.

Speaking of people dropping out, exit question via Jon Gabriel: Wouldn’t it be best for the party if Jeb Bush pulled the plug? “The issue with Jeb isn’t that he’s the choice of the reviled GOP establishment,” says Gabriel, “but that he doesn’t realize the establishment is reviled.” I wouldn’t put it quite that way; I think it’s more a case of Bush understanding that the establishment is reviled by one wing of the party and simply not caring, trusting that that wing will turn out for him in the name of beating Hillary no matter how populist they are. The fact remains, though, that he was dismal at the debate, he’s been bland on the trail, and he’s hurting the “Stop Trump” forces by sucking donor money and media attention away from a more charismatic establishment hope like Rubio. The problem is, even if you think Jeb would fall on his sword if he really did think it was best for the GOP, there’s no way that Bushworld will convince itself that that’s the case, right? Bush 41 won, Bush 43 won, and now they’ll find a way to make Jeb win, or so they’re telling themselves. Winning is what they do. It’s their party. The very thought that having a Bush running for president might be bad for the Republican Party — preposterous!

Update: Hugh Hewitt asked Trump about the HuffPo story this afternoon. He agreed that the GOP’s been treating him fairly and says he’ll fully commit to the party “at some point.” Hmmm.