How Donald Trump Could Do Major Damage to the GOP: Back in 2015, when he first ran roughshod over the rest of the Republican presidential field, there was a period when Donald Trump was asked if he would pledge to endorse the eventual Republican nominee for president if it wasn’t himself. Trump, on a debate stage that fall, would not. He eventually pledged to, then backed off that pledge, and then he won the nomination anyway, making the question moot.
Now, eight years later, there’s talk of that again, after Trump was asked in an interview back in February with radio host Hugh Hewitt if he would “support whoever the GOP nominee is.”
“That would depend. I would give you the same answer I gave in 2016 during the debates. The first question I was asked by Bret Baier,” the ex-president said in the interview. “I was asked two rather, I was asked two rather interesting questions. It would have to depend on who the nominee was.”
Donald Trump: Would He Run As a Third-Party Candidate?
Donald Trump did not discuss the idea of continuing to run as an independent or third-party candidate if he loses the Republican nomination. This scenario would appear more far-fetched now than it did when Trump was first in politics.
Trump has been the key figure in the GOP for the better half of a decade, and it’s less likely to see him backing away from the party now.
Peter Wehner, a longtime conservative who served in the Reagan Administration as well as both Bush Administrations, has emerged in recent years as a Trump critic. He wrote for The Atlantic a few months ago about the possibility of Trump bringing the GOP down with him, in a scenario like the one above.
“It’s begun to dawn on Republicans that they face a potentially catastrophic political problem: Donald Trump may lose the GOP presidential primary and, out of spite, wreck Republican prospects in 2024,” Wehner wrote. “In such a closely divided nation, a third-party campaign by Trump would cripple the GOP in 2024, because almost all of Trump’s votes would come from people who would otherwise vote Republican.”
There is also a scenario in which Donald Trump loses the Republican nomination and then, while not running a third party candidacy, starts making a daily habit of sniping at the winning GOP candidate, or possibility repeatedly threatening to get back in the race without actually doing so.
“If Trump does decide to sabotage his party’s chances in 2024, no one should be surprised. After all, Trump has flirted with third-party runs before, including in 2000, and he refused to rule out a third-party run in 2015,” Wehner’s piece said.
And despite being the Republican nominee in the last two elections and exercising a large amount of control of the decisions being made by the party after leaving office, Trump’s ties to the GOP aren’t especially strong, Wehner argues. He even compared Trump to the Joker from the movie “The Dark Knight,” stating that “some men just want to watch the world burn.”
Trump Doesn’t Care?
“Trump has no attachment to the Republican Party or, as best as one can tell, to anything or anyone else,” he writes. “His malignant narcissism prevents that. Trump is an institutional arsonist, peddling conspiracy theories, spreading lies, sowing distrust. That’s his skill, and he’s quite good at it. But Trump is now causing growing unease among his past supporters and the GOP establishment by signaling that he may very well turn that skill against their party. Trump, as a former president who won almost 75 million votes in 2020, could inflict tremendous harm on the GOP if he turns against it.”
Expertise and Experience: Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review, and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.