WASHINGTON – Businessman Donald Trump has told several top Republicans that he will swear off the possibility of an independent bid and commit to running his presidential campaign under the party’s banner, according to several sources. Such a move could endear Trump further to Republican voters who have remained skeptical about his allegiance to a political party he joined relatively recently. Trump had drawn sharp criticism from GOP leaders concerned that a third party bid would effectively guarantee a Democratic win in the general election.
“I know you don’t need any advice, but I’m going to give you some. You will do better in the Republican primaries if you just swear off the third party, because a lot of Republicans will never vote for someone who, like Ross Perot, will hand the election to a Democrat,” influential radio host Hugh Hewitt told Trump during an interview in early August.
“I’ve never heard it put so strongly,” Trump responded. “When you said it the way you said it, that’s very interesting, so I’ll be thinking about that.”
Michael Cohen, a top Trump aide, did not go so far as to confirm that the businessman would take the step of forsaking a run as an independent. But he did tell The Huffington Post that Trump never had “any intent” of campaigning as anything other than a Republican. “He just wanted to ensure that the establishment would treat him as fair as they would treat any of the other candidates,” Cohen said. “And I believe, right now, they are treating him fairly. It is my personal belief that the RNC is treating Mr. Trump the same as the other candidates, and he will live up to his agreement not to run as an independent.”
Trump, for his part, has long said that he was holding out the possibility of an independent run as leverage. But according to sources, he has since determined that the threat was harmful to his current chances.
A spokesman for the Republican National Committee did not return a request for comment.
A top Republican source, however, cautioned that any decision Trump will reportedly make should be considered a loose commitment at best, since he is known for his political impulsiveness. A stray insult from a fellow Republican could, theoretically, change his calculus.
“[Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger] Ailes thought he had a deal, too. Then Trump called Megyn Kelly a bimbo, again,” noted one GOP operative, referencing the supposed truce between the network chief and Trump. Asked specifically if Trump would be making a formal announcement, Cohen replied, “Only Mr. Trump can sign that oath. And when he does, you can rest assured, he will live by it.”