After a few days of vacation, I wondered whether the Donald Trump phenomenon would have burnt itself out somewhat, as it did four years ago in a summer fizzle. Instead, Trump’s polling has strengthened nearly to the same level as in the spring of 2011 among Republican primary voters. So why is Trump picking this time to threaten to leave the GOP? The Hill’s exclusive interview with the mogul this morning includes a demand for fairness from the RNC from Trump, with an explicit warning that Trump may consider a third-party run:

“The RNC has not been supportive. They were always supportive when I was a contributor. I was their fair-haired boy,” the business mogul told The Hill in a 40-minute interview from his Manhattan office at Trump Tower on Wednesday. “The RNC has been, I think, very foolish.”

Pressed on whether he would run as a third-party candidate if he fails to clinch the GOP nomination, Trump said that “so many people want me to, if I don’t win.”

“I’ll have to see how I’m being treated by the Republicans,” Trump said. “Absolutely, if they’re not fair, that would be a factor.”

Two aspects of this strike me as strange. First, it seems a tad bit whiny for a multibillionaire who publicly backed Hillary Clinton for VP seven years ago to complain that the RNC may be unfair to him. Isn’t this the same man who claims to be fearless because he’s not beholden to anyone? And what precisely would “unfairness” look like, anyway? No one’s talking about locking Trump out of the debates — at least not yet.

Trump extends the umbrella to other Republicans as well, which seems to suggest that he doesn’t want to face any tough criticism, even as he’s ripping them repeatedly from the campaign trail. That looks a bit thin-skinned, again rather surprising from a man whose selling point is his toughness and bluntness.

Second, this also looks a bit premature. Trump waited a while four years ago to start pressing the third-party run button, which ended up pressuring Republicans to come kiss the ring — most notably Mitt Romney, who took a lot of flak for it in the media due to Trump’s focus on birtherism. Trump’s ascending in the polls among Republican voters now, not descending, so why choose this moment to threaten to make their path to defeating Hillary Clinton more difficult? It’s true that some frustrated GOP voters have sympathy for a party schism, but in the past those impulses have coalesced around figures like Sarah Palin, who had a lifetime of solid conservative credentials — not someone who was backing Democrats until seven years ago, pushing Canadian-style health care reform, and demurring on action regarding late-term abortions.

Finally, one has to wonder just how seriously to take this. The threat’s not entirely an empty one, but it would take more dedication than Trump has shown thus far. His second-quarter fundraising numbers came to less than $2 million, all but $93,000 of it from his own pocket. The Republican and Democratic nominees will get on the ballots in the states because the state parties already have the infrastructure to manage that process. Ross Perot had to spend a ton of money — some his, much of it from donors — to replicate that as an independent, and so far Trump hasn’t put the time or money into the organization necessary to run a campaign within the GOP, let alone outside of the two-party system.

Trump’s most likely pulling the media’s chain and giving it a juicy narrative just for the sake of its juiciness. That’s a pretty good description of the whole Trump 2016 phenomenon, just as it was of the Trump 2012 phenomenon.

Update: Speaking of chain-pulling, here’s what Trump said about this literally the day before this interview while speaking with Dana Loesch (via Matthew Newman):

I spoke with 2016 contender Donald Trump today on my Blaze television program and asked him about sharing Lindsey Graham’s cell phone number with the public, the Planned Parenthood controversy, same sex marriage, what he would do to fix the VA, and whether he intends to run third party — which he flatly denied. Said Trump:

“I will only ever run as a Republican.”

Er … yeah.