Jeb Bush: Why yes, my campaign is looking into what would happen if I refused to keep my pledge to back the GOP nominee

By “what would happen,” I mean what would happen to his own candidacy. Some state GOPs require candidates to pledge to support the eventual nominee as a condition of appearing on the primary ballot. In theory, if Jeb now declared that he could no longer in good conscience keep that pledge with respect to Trump, which would be a nutty thing to do for all sorts of reasons, he’d be effectively disqualified in a bunch of states and his candidacy would be completely dead instead of mostly dead as it is now. (Team Jeb would challenge any attempts to kick him off the ballot in court, though, so who knows.) But never mind all that. I’ve watched this clip three times and I’m still not sure what he means. He seems to be saying that he only started thinking about reneging on his own pledge after Trump began making noise again last week about going third-party if he’s treated unfairly, but that makes no sense to me. Why would Jeb break his pledge before Trump’s broken his own? How is it a lesson in loyalty to Trump to preemptively declare one’s disloyalty to him? And why would Jeb need to break his pledge if Trump pulled the trigger and went third-party? Trump would no longer be a contender for the GOP nomination. Bush could support the nominee in good conscience. Also, why does he say he didn’t know people on his team were looking into this early on in the clip and then in the second half he clarifies that yes, they’re looking into the consequences of him breaking his pledge, not Trump?

And if this is all being driven by Trump’s flirtation with an independent run, why does Reuters say it was motivated by something else?

A driving factor behind the move was Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States, a step that Bush denounced to Trump’s face at the debate.

“We received lots of questions following Donald Trump’s most recent unhinged proposal so our campaign did due diligence looking into the rules surrounding the pledge,” said a senior Bush aide who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Not only hasn’t that Trump proposal hurt Trump with Republicans, it’s actually improved perceptions of him among Democrats (albeit by only a few points). Leave it to Team Jeb to think about drawing a line in the sand with Trump knowing that most Republicans are on the other side. If you’re going to symbolically excommunicate him from the party, at least pick a sin where you know the majority of Republicans will side with you rather than him, like Trump suddenly playing footsie with Putin.

Trump, by the way, is handling Jeb’s swipes with his usual aplomb:

Three exit questions for you. One: Why on earth would Jeb and his team acknowledge that they’re thinking of revoking their pledge before they’ve actually done it? If you do it, you at least get some credit for boldness among Trump critics. By saying you might do it and then hedging, you look indecisive and you still accrue all the bad vibes I described in this post. Senseless. Two: Did Dubya really say that Jeb is “peaking at the right time”? C’mon. That works, I guess, if the new goal is simply to crack double digits in New Hampshire. Three: Did Jeb say in this same interview that, er, Hillary Clinton’s policies “aren’t much better” than Trump’s? Go watch the video at RCP. I think what he meant is that her policies aren’t much better than she is personally; the full quote, responding to a question about Trump, is “She’s not trustworthy, and her proposals aren’t much better.” Then again, why wouldn’t Jeb prefer Hillary’s agenda to Trump’s? Trump’s a Democrat on many domestic matters but he’s strongly anti-amnesty and opposes nation-building. What would Jeb Bush find to like in that program?