And Trump, who’s campaigning for the GOP nomination, isn’t denying the possibility.
“Everybody wants me to do that. I have so many people wanting me to do that,” Trump said in a Thursday Fox News interview when asked if he would rule out an independent White House bid.
As Trump dominates headlines with his harsh and controversial rhetoric against illegal immigration, a number of his rival Republican candidates have condemned his remarks as offensive or inappropriate. But the national Republican Party has largely held its tongue even as donors fret that he could hurt the party with Hispanic voters.
The Times report suggested that at least one reason party leaders aren’t publicly slamming him is out of concern that an embittered Trump would keep campaigning after a GOP primary loss. Trump does not have to work within the party infrastructure to win votes, thanks to his massive personal fortune and name recognition.
“You’ve got to keep him in the tent,” former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Virginia) told the newspaper. “He just wreaks havoc, and every vote he takes comes out of our hide.”
The possibility of a third-party Trump campaign reminds some GOP leaders of Ross Perot, the Texas billionaire who ran two independent White House bids in 1992 and 1996. Perot’s first candidacy is often blamed for damaging President George H.W. Bush’s reelection campaign and letting Bill Clinton win with a mere plurality of the vote.
“Perot’s intensely nationalist and protectionist politics resonated with a lot of center-right voters that otherwise would have voted Republican,” Dan Senor, an adviser on 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign, told The Times. “And the environment today is even more intensely populist. If Trump were to run as an independent, who knows what impact he could have in what will otherwise be a close election?”
Trump has also blamed Perot’s candidacy for Clinton’s 1992 win and the real-estate developer appeared concerned that he could do the same for Clinton’s wife, 2016 Democratic front-runner and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“I think every single vote that went to Ross Perot came from Bush,” Trump recently told the Washington Examiner. “Virtually every one of his 19 percentage points came from the Republicans. If Ross Perot didn’t run, you have never heard of Bill Clinton.”
However, Trump says he’s not pondering a third-party run at the moment because he fully intends to win the Republican nomination.
“It’s something I’m not thinking about right now,” Trump told the Examiner, “because I’m doing well within the Republican ranks, and that gives us the best chance of defeating Hillary Clinton.”
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