Ever since candidate Donald Trump refused to promise not to run as an independent at Fox News’ first Republican presidential debate of the 2016 campaign season, state and national level Republican Party organizations have been scrambling to find a way to force him to sign an oath pledging his loyalty to the party.
On Wednesday, the Republican National Committee distributed a loyalty pledge to all 2016 candidates and asked them to sign it prior to CNN’s September 16 Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.
According to The Guardian, Donald Trump signed the pledge on Thursday after a meeting with RNC chairman Reince Priebus and said at a press conference, “I have no intention of changing my mind. I see no circumstances under which I would tear up that pledge.” It is worth noting that his comments after signing the pledge seem to have left open the possibility that some type of unforeseen circumstance could in theory motivate him to tear up the pledge.
According to Politico, the RNC pledge reads, “I [name] affirm that if I do not win the 2016 Republican nomination for president of the United States I will endorse the 2016 Republican presidential nominee regardless of who it is.”
It continues, “I further pledge that I will not seek to run as an independent or write-in candidate nor will I seek or accept the nomination for president of any other party.”
Virginia and North Carolina’s Republican Party organizations are considering forcing candidates to sign a loyalty pledge in order to obtain ballot access, and South Carolina’s GOP announced last week that candidates must promise that they “generally believe in and intend to support the nominees and platform of the Republican Party in the November 8, 2016 general election” prior to September 30 in order to appear on the party’s ballot.
Former Virginia Governor and 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jim Gilmore told The Washington Post, “If someone is going to go to the party and ask for their support, if they’re going to ask the rank and file for their vote, that comes with an obligation for loyalty, in my mind. Generally speaking, if you want the party’s support, that loyalty should be there.”
Former RNC chairman Michael Steele said, “I appreciate what [RNC chairman Reince Priebus] is trying to do [by circulating the pledge], trying to bring some level of order to this situation. The expectation should be if you’re running to be nominee of the party, you should support the nominee of the party.”
Though the RNC’s circulation of the pledge appeared to be motivated primarily by the desire to get Donald Trump to swear off an independent run, asking candidates to pledge to support the party’s eventual nominee without knowing who that might be or what positions that person might be championing at that time goes even further. In the 2012 Republican presidential primary, candidate Ron Paul said that he would not run as an independent but ultimately refused to endorse the party’s nominee.
The Republican Party can use its powers to deny candidates the use of its voter information database and to strip them from RNC-sanctioned debates to pressure them into falling in line. However, there is nothing stopping a candidate like Trump from signing the pledge and then backing out of it later on, other than the political reality that voters do not typically support candidates who break promises.
In the below-embedded CBS46 Atlanta Reality Check video, Ben Swann discusses the implications of the Republican National Committee’s power to ban candidates from Republican presidential debates.
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