Trump Slams Cruz, Revives Third-Party Threats

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For several months, Donald Trump played a game of chicken with the Republican National Committee, refusing to rule out the possibility of a third-party run at the White House. This led to a memorable moment in the first Fox News debate, where Trump was the only candidate on stage who would not swear allegiance to the eventual Republican nominee. In December, however, RNC Chair Reince Preibus secured a pledge from the surprise frontrunner that ostensibly put the threats to bed.

Now all of that may be out the window.

“I signed a pledge,” Trump said in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina on Monday. “But the pledge is not being honored by them. They are in default of their pledge.”

The problem, as Trump sees it, is the RNC’s refusal to sanction Senator Ted Cruz for tactics he used to win the Iowa caucuses last month. In a scathing news release, Trump issued a long “response to the lies of Senator Cruz.”

“Ted Cruz is a totally unstable individual,” Trump wrote. “He is the single biggest liar I’ve ever come across, in politics or otherwise, and I have seen some of the best of them.”

Among the lies Cruz is accused of spreading:

– Trump would pick a liberal Supreme Court Justice
– Trump is pro-choice
– Trump favors Obamacare
– Trump would deteriorate the Second Amendment
– Ben Carson was dropping out of the race

“If Ted is going to continue to lie with such desperation, I have no choice but to fight back,” Trump wrote. “One of the ways I can fight back is to bring a lawsuit against him relative to the fact that he was born in Canada and therefore cannot be President […] Additionally, the RNC should intervene and if they don’t they are in default of their pledge to me.”

Even at the time it was signed, anyone with half a brain knew that the pledge wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. Trump, who now commands somewhere between 30% and 40% of support from Republican voters in national polls, would single-handedly eliminate the party’s chances of winning the White House if he launched an independent run. That’s an enormous advantage to give up, especially when the bulk of his campaign is centered on the failures of the party.

The question is whether the RNC really is treating Trump “unfairly,” as he’s claimed. And the answer is: perhaps. The last two Republican debates have been colored by crowds transparently pro-establishment; as it turns out, Trump was right when he said the audiences were padded with party people and donors.

The bigger question: If Trump were to run third-party, could he become the first candidate in history to win the general election without the support of a major platform? As an independent, he could be more than just a spoiler; he could actually take down the whole thing. And if that seems implausible…well, who would have ever thought he would have gotten as far as he has? In this wild year, nothing is certain.