Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Trump to GOP: Humor me, boys, or I'm going third-party

While I have no intention of turning this into a Donald Trump blog, you can't ignore the political story of the day and maybe the week. And when Trump explicitly threatens the Republican Party with a third-party candidacy, as he did in an interview Wednesday ... well, let's say the price of poker just went up.

“The RNC has not been supportive. They were always supportive when I was a contributor. I was their fair-haired boy,” the business mogul told The Hill in a 40-minute interview from his Manhattan office at Trump Tower on Wednesday. “The RNC has been, I think, very foolish.”

Pressed on whether he would run as a third-party candidate if he fails to clinch the GOP nomination, Trump said that “so many people want me to, if I don’t win.”

“I’ll have to see how I’m being treated by the Republicans,” Trump said. “Absolutely, if they’re not fair, that would be a factor.”

Is that a bluff? Maybe. But when you're across the table from an unpredictable, petulant egomaniac with billions of dollars to spend, it's a bluff that the Republican establishment can't afford to call.  They desperately need the Trump voters, without whom they have little chance of winning the White House in 2016. But keeping the Trump voters while shedding themselves of Trump the candidate is a delicate business at best.  And I'm not sure how they pull that off.

At the moment, Trump is getting a lot of attention -- which he loves -- and that attention is only likely to increase as we enter debate season. With his drag queen's thirst for the spotlight, it just isn't realistic to hope that at some point he will just walk away from it gracefully. Graceful exits are not in his DNA.

And if he won't go voluntarily, he also won't respond well to other means. Basically, he has now told the party establishment and his fellow candidates that if they try to muscle him out of the race or try to exclude him from debates, he will become their worst nightmare. It would be foolish, very foolish. Something only stupid people -- very stupid people -- would do.

“I’m not in the gang," as Trump told The Hill. "I’m not in the group where the group does whatever it’s supposed to do. I want to do what’s right for the country — not what’s good for special interest groups that contribute, not what’s good for the lobbyists and the donors.”

That's total BS, of course -- Trump's first and last priority is Trump -- but it's BS that sells to a certain crowd. And I'd be willing to bet that Democratic and Republican operatives have already dissected the third-party ballot-access laws in strategic states, just to see how much damage the man could really do if properly motivated.


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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.