There was a point in this election cycle where I tried to make sense of Donald Trump’s candidacy. I’m not sure why I wasted all that time. It doesn’t make sense, it’s not supposed to make sense, and the more I think about it, the less time I have for more important things, like tacos.
At any rate, this morning Donald Trump announced that he believed the RNC has broken it’s promise to support him as their leading candidate and potential nominee, claiming that the RNC had stacked the audience at Saturday night’s debate, where Trump was repeatedly booed after claiming that George Bush had a hand in the 9/11 attacks.
Donald Trump not only went off on Jeb Bush on Twitter on Monday but also tore into the Republican National Committee for what he says is an inability to stay neutral, citing Saturday night’s GOP debate as an example.
Trump was repeatedly booed on Saturday night. During the debate he said the RNC stacked the audience against him, a claim he doubled down on Monday while also calling it a “disgrace.”
“Those tickets were all special-interest people,” Trump said Monday at an event in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. “And I know them! I’m looking in the audience, some of them are friends of mine and yet they’re booing me because they’re having fun. The guy’s booing me and he’s laughing and he’s waving and he’s going, ‘boo, boo.’ And he’s waving at me. I’m saying, ‘This is crazy!’ But I know many of those people, lobbyists and special interests.”
The RNC obviously denied Trump’s claims and noted that each candidate had been given 100 seats to fill. If those who filled the seats were influenced by other members of the audience, that’s not something the RNC can control. Trump followed up his comments about the RNC with a few choice words for Ted Cruz, who he claimed was “dishonest,” and then observed that the RNC’s actions (or lack thereof, I suppose) in the Saturday debate demonstrated that the RNC was in violation of the “loyalty pledge” they required Trump to sign. Trump then announced he was considering breaking his own half of the pledge, an obvious allusion to a potential third party run.
“The whole room was made of special interests and donors, which is a disgrace from the RNC,” Trump said. “The RNC better get its act together because, you know, I signed a pledge. The pledge isn’t being honored by the RNC.”
Trump signed an RNC pledge in September, agreeing not to run a third-party candidacy and to support the eventual Republican nominee.
“I signed a pledge, but it’s a double-edged pledge. As far as I’m concerned, they’re in default on their pledge,” Trump said of the RNC
Even if the RNC did, somehow, telepathically manipulate the audience Saturday night, I’m not sure that qualifies as “breaking their pledge” to support Trump regardless of the fact that Trump is not actually a Republican. But I haven’t seen the whole contract, and I can’t honestly tell you if telekinesis is explicitly forbidden.
That said, I’m not sure why Trump is choosing to go down this road, even now. He’s ahead in South Carolina, ahead in most of the Super Tuesday states, a likely winner in Nevada, and while there are still more than 80% of available delegates to collect, Trump has probably a 40% chance of snagging the nomination. It’s not as though he’s in, say, Ben Carson’s position, where winning is almost impossible and only his stubbornness is keeping him in the race (though, I suppose, that factor is always in play with Trump). So while I don’t necessarily doubt Trump’s sincerity in pursuing a potential third party bid, I’d suspect his motivation is less the RNC’s actions and more a sneaking suspicion that his margins in South Carolina aren’t as stable as they appear. He needs to motivate supporters, and what better way to do that than attacking the RNC?
Of course, if I lived in South Carolina, I might think this was the opportune time to consolidate my friends around a particular candidate just so that that doesn’t happen. But I’m registered in Illinois where things like that don’t matter.
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