Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, in a Thursday interview with CNN, dismissed concerns over front-runner Donald Trump’s continued indecision on whether he will run as a third-party candidate, saying that he was confident Trump would not launch an independent race.
"I've had great conversations with Donald Trump, we actually talk pretty regularly, as I do with almost all the candidates," Priebus said, in the interview. "I think he wants to be the Republican nominee and he knows that if Hillary Clinton is going to get beat, or Joe Biden is going to get beat, they're going to get beat by a Republican. I think that's where he's at."
The GOP presidential debate began with the crowd booing Trump as he was the only one among the 17 contenders to refuse to commit to back the eventual Republican nominee, or to commit to not run as a third party candidate.
“Why should I give up that leverage?” he asked Fox News’ Sean Hannity, during the debate.
Analysts and pollsters have consistently warned that an independent Trump campaign would be a Republican “nightmare” that would split the party’s voting base down the middle, possibly handing a victory to the 2016 Democratic nominee. Trump ignited a firestorm last month when he questioned fellow Republican Senator John McCain’s status as a “war hero” for his acts during the Vietnam War.
Conservative columnists and thinkers have excoriated Trump as a “ridiculous buffoon” who “should not be taken seriously,” and there were calls for him to be excluded from the debate. However, these comments, as well as Trump's own frequent controversial statements, have failed to dent his ratings, which currently place him comfortably ahead of the Republican candidates in the race.
Priebus said that the strong support for Trump was unsurprising. "I think Donald Trump has tapped into something where people are tired of the veneer, of the plasticized politics that we get, so people gravitate to that," Priebus told CNN.
"That's up to us to make sure we put our best foot forward. Containment's a key word here too," Priebus said. "When you have 17 candidates, you want to be able to have that balance between allowing some jabs back and forth and some elbows, but not total destruction."