Feb. 17, 2016 — Donald Trump is publicly accusing the Republican National Committee leadership of being “in default of their pledge.” Earlier in the cycle, Trump and the committee hierarchy agreed via signed document that no Independent candidacy would be launched should he fail to capture the GOP presidential nomination and, in return, the party leaders would not erect any artificial impediments or enact rules designed to gut his Republican candidacy.
Trump, the early GOP delegate leader, is crying foul over the audience loudly booing him several times during the CBS Republican presidential debate from South Carolina last Saturday night. The candidate claims the RNC gave all the live viewing tickets to “special interest lobbyists”, thereby stacking the audience in an effort to make him look bad.
Yesterday, Trump held a news conference and called upon the media to remember his comments pertaining to his view that the RNC is breaking the pledge. Trump was clearly putting the option of running as an Independent back on the table under the justification that RNC personnel had violated the agreement terms.
At least two key points are of interest should he attempt such a move if he fails to be nominated at the Republican National Convention in late July. First, it would be legally and logistically difficult for Trump to access all 50 state ballots at that future point in the election cycle when taking into consideration that some individual candidate filing deadlines would have passed, others would be soon pending, and that some states impose specific qualification requirements. Therefore, even if Trump decides to go Independent late, the effort may die a logistical death.
Underscoring the time constraints, political consultants have advised former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, also thinking about entering the race as an Independent presidential candidate, that a decision needs to be made in mid-March if he is realistically going to gain ballot access in every state.
Secondly, a Trump Independent candidacy, surprisingly, might not be all that bad for Republicans, which is a statement that flies in the face of conventional political wisdom. A strong third candidate, either Trump or Bloomberg but not both, could conceivably help the Republican nominee. A well-known Independent winning a strategic state or two might possibly deadlock a close race and throw it into the House of Representatives.
If no candidate reaches 270 Electoral Votes, the election is cast into the House, where each state has one vote in selecting the next president. Considering that Republicans control 33 state congressional delegations, the GOP nominee will become the prohibitive favorite should the House become the tiebreaker.
Thus, we could therefore see a situation where non-affiliated conservative Super PACs go into battleground states where the Republican nominee looks sure to lose and attempt to build support for the Independent, thus denying the Democratic nominee, presumably Hillary Clinton, the ability to carry the targeted voting entity. Just one state, in a particular situation where Trump (or Bloomberg) wins instead of the Democratic nominee, would deny the latter critical electoral votes, which could prevent an Electoral College majority.
Granted the circumstances for that to happen would be narrow and must fall just right for such a ploy to work, but this type of result is within the mathematical realm of possibility. The race would have to be close, the Independent campaigns developed to the point where winning states is viable, and the Democrat would have to be leading nationally but in a position where the denial of a specific state or two would preclude outright victory.