Trump, the pledge, and the art of intimidation

But many Republicans worry that Trump could still play “spoiler” by merely threatening to run an independent campaign. “Sore loser laws don’t hold up well in court,” says Richard Winger, the editor of Ballot Access News. “They also aren’t easily enforced. John Anderson ran as an independent in all 50 states in 1980 after ending his Republican campaign, and not one of the sore-loser laws was enforced against him.”

Even if they were enforced, Trump could easily evade them. Winger says it would be easy to put Donald Trump Jr., the real-estate mogul’s son, on state ballots and make it known that if the Trump ticket won a state, its pro-Trump electors would in reality be voting for the elder Trump.

It’s true that deadlines for collecting ballot signatures in several states will have passed by the time the GOP convention begins, but a man of Trump’s wealth could probably rent a ballot line on many states from several smaller parties that are already on the ballot. “In at least 13 states, parties ranging from Reform to American Independent could nominate Trump and give him a ballot position,” Winger says.

Of course, in such a scenario, Trump would know that he probably wouldn’t win a majority of the Electoral College. And by making it more likely that Hillary Clinton or another Democrat would win key swing states such as Virginia and Florida, he would destroy the Republican nominee’s chance of winning the White House.