Donald Trump has signed the Republican pledge after meeting privately with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus Thursday afternoon, and soon after, came out to the lobby of Trump Tower to declare that he has signed a loyalty pledge. This means Trump has promised to support the party’s eventual nominee, whoever that may be and that he will not run as a third-party candidate.
“The best way for the Republicans to win is if I win the nomination and go directly against whoever they happen to put up. And for that reason, I have signed the pledge,” Trump said, holding up the paper. “So I will be totally pledging my allegiance to the Republican Party and for the conservative principles for which it stands.”
He added: “We will go out and fight hard, and we will win.”
If Trump’s official declaration of allegiance to the party serves to calm the nerves of establishment Republicans, at least for now, it could also invite backlash from some of the bombastic candidate’s die-hard supporters.
Trump has propelled himself to the top of the polls by casting himself as an anti-establishment, outsider candidate, railing against career politicians and the Washington political class.
Signing an RNC pledge complicates that image.
Katrina Pierson, a spokeswoman for the Tea Party Leadership Fund and a Trump defender, said she personally does not condone the pledge.
“The GOP has not been loyal to members of its own party during previous election cycles,” Pierson said. “I can’t see any reason why he would give up that leverage considering a lot of his supporters like the idea that he’s running against the establishment.”
Thursday’s 15-minute sit-down with Priebus comes amid unease about whether the billionaire businessman would rebuff the party and seek the White House as an independent. Soon after Trump announced his candidacy, Priebus asked the real estate magnate to tone down his fiery rhetoric on immigration, as establishment Republicans grew increasingly worried that Trump was angering the Hispanic community.
Trump explained Thursday that he came to the decision to sign the pledge because the Republican Party in recent months has been “extremely fair” to him.
“The RNC has been absolutely terrific over the last two month period and as you know, that’s what I’ve wanted,” Trump said. “I don’t want to be treated any differently.”
Asked what he got in return for signing the paper, Trump responded: “assurance that I will be treated fairly.”
RNC officials began circulating a pledge to various GOP presidential campaigns this week, measuring up how much appetite there is in the field to commit to supporting the eventual nominee.
“I, ________, affirm that if I do not win the 2016 Republican nomination for President of the United States I will endorse the 2016 Republican presidential nominee regardless of who it is,” it reads.
The pledge continues: “I further pledge that I will not seek to run as an independent or write-in candidate nor will I seek or accept the nomination for president of any other party.”
Advisers to the candidate have said all along that Trump was never seriously interested in launching an independent run, which is an arduous and costly process.
The pledge has not only put pressure on Trump to commit to the party, it’s also forcing some of his rivals to promise to support Trump if he were to clinch the GOP nomination.
It’s a particularly uncomfortable position for a candidate like Jeb Bush, who in recent weeks has publicly clashed with Trump. The two men have released attack videos on social media, and openly criticized one another on the trail.
On ABC’s “Good Morning America” Thursday morning, Bush lashed out at Trump, saying, “I think Donald Trump is trying to insult his way to the presidency and it’s not going to work.”
However, pressed on whether he would support Trump if he were to become the nominee, the former Florida governor answered in the affirmative.
“Yes, I would, of course. We need to be unified. We need to win,” Bush said.
After Trump’s press conference, Bush tweeted a tongue-in-cheek version of the pledge that said, “Voted Republican since 1972.”
Meanwhile, others are raising questions about just how enforceable a loyalty pledge is.
“You’re right, it’s unenforceable,” said Carly Fiorina.” “It is, more than anything else, your word.”
In a further boost to Trump, Trump increased his GOP vote share since last month’s debate. The latest Monmouth University Poll of Republican voters nationwide also finds Ben Carson moving into second place, Jeb Bush slipping to third, and Scott Walker fading into the background.
The poll also tested Trump directly against nine opponents in head-to-head match-ups and found that only Carson is able to get the better of him. When Republicans and Republican-leaning voters are asked who they would support for the GOP nomination for president, Donald Trump leads the pack at 30%, which is up 4 points from early August before the first debate. Ben Carson (18%) has increased his vote share by 13 points and now holds second place. Jeb Bush (8%) has dropped by 4 points and now stands in a tie for third with Ted Cruz (8%). Following behind are Marco Rubio (5%), Carly Fiorina (4%), and Mike Huckabee (4%). Scott Walker (3%), who held third place in Monmouth’s August poll, has dropped 8 points since then. Chris Christie, John Kasich, and Rand Paul each get 2%. The remaining six candidates included in the poll score no higher than 1% each. “
None of the establishment candidates is having any success in getting an anti-Trump vote to coalesce around them. In fact, any attempt to take on Trump directly only seems to make him stronger,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.
The Monmouth University Poll tested the strength of Donald Trump’s support by presenting Republican voters with nine hypothetical head-to-head match-ups. Trump tops the field in all but one of those contests. If it came down to just two candidates, Trump beats the putative establishment favorite Jeb Bush by a 56% to 37% margin. Trump also gets the better of Chris Christie (63% to 30%), John Kasich (62% to 29%), Rand Paul (60% to 27%), Scott Walker (53% to 38%), Marco Rubio (52% to Monmouth University Polling Institute 9/3/15 2 38%), Carly Fiorina (50% to 37%), and Ted Cruz (48% to 41%).
The only candidate who is able to take on The Donald and win is Ben Carson, who gets 55% support to 36% for Trump in a hypothetical matchup. “The fact that the only one who can challenge Trump is the only other candidate who has never held or run for elected office speaks volumes to the low regard GOP voters have for the establishment,” said Murray.