In the wake of Donald Trump’s comments this week that he won’t rule out running as a third party candidate for the presidency, everyone is speculating as to how serious he is about an independent run.
Trump may just have been poking Reince Priebus and the RNC to make sure they don’t try to keep him out of the debates or criticize his candidacy publicly. Since Trump has said as much, he probably has inside information that they are ready to try to muzzle him for the good of the party. And if he is still riding high in the presidential polls after the first debate, big GOP donors will increase the pressure on Priebus to stop the GOP’s Trump debacle from growing worse. With the threat of a third party run by Trump being Priebus’ worst nightmare, he may have to endure the Trump candidacy for several primaries and hope it will flame out on its own.
But as time goes by and the Trump phenomena consumes even The Donald’s massive ego, the smart bet is that he will still be running in October. Here’s why:
- Trump really doesn’t care who wins in 2016. Unlike a politician, his power is not dependent on tax cuts or deficit reduction or foreign policy. And he certainly couldn’t give two corn shucks about social issues like healthcare or gun rights. So while he enjoys needling Hillary Clinton as “the worst Secretary of State in the history of the United States,” we know he likes her personally and worked well with her as Senator of NY. Plus, his net worth flourished during the last Clinton presidency. How badly could another one hurt him?
- Trump truly hated the George W. Bush administration, and said so many times. He may even have a personal vendetta against the Bush family, because the first flaming arrows of his campaign were aimed right at Jeb’s heart, even going so far as to call Jeb is a “total disaster” and warn that another Bush presidency “is the last thing we need.” If we take Trump at his word, last means last – including being less preferable than a Hillary presidency. So the idea that he doesn’t want to hurt Bush’s chances in 2016 is ridiculous.
- Trump appears to have no love loss for the other major GOP contender, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. One thing we know about Trump is that he doesn’t suffer fools gladly. So the very idea of a college dropout like Walker being the nation’s CEO probably disgusts him. His opinion of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is equally dismissive, and his disdain for Texas Gov. Rick Perry and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham are well-known. While Trump may have a kinder view of Sen. Ted Cruz and a few of the other second tier GOP candidates, their odds of getting the nomination are virtually nil.
- The chance to be in the fall presidential debates has to be intoxicating to Trump. It maybe the largest TV audience he’s ever played to. And he knows he can only win, as there is no downside to a debate for a third party candidate. (It certainly didn’t hurt Ross Perot.)
- Trump seems to enjoy running for the presidency, and has no TV job to go back to. So why not take a shot at being the most successful third party candidate in history? It’s not hard to imagine a post-election Trump saying, If I could get 22% of the vote as with no party behind me, imagine what I could have done as the Republican nominee.
- By making a respectable run, boosting his gravitas and helping Hillary win, Trump sets himself up as a leading candidate for the 2020 GOP nomination – maybe even the de facto front runner. Which means three more years in the spotlight and three more years to make massive TV deals. Speculation of a presidential run was quite a boon to Sarah Palin’s TV career. Imagine what Donald Trump could do with that kind of buzz.
So if you think the supernova of Donald Trump is going to go burn out soon, think again. When it comes to The Donald, the only thing that is less likely to flame out soon is the sun itself.