Donald Trump makes his party nervous, very nervous at times, as he has done with his ban-Muslims call. But he knows how to keep it in line, by waving the independent-run flag.
That makes Republicans even more nervous. If Trump runs as an independent, he may or may not win but will definitely cause the nominee’s defeat by cutting into conservative votes.
As Republican leaders slammed his call to ban Muslims from entering the US in the aftermath of the California terrorist attack, he posted them a reminder, with characteristic bluntness.
Though it is “highly unlikely” he told CNN he will run as an independent candidate, his pledge to support the eventual nominee is a “two-way street”.
“If they don’t treat me with a certain amount of decorum and respect, if they don’t treat me as the front-runner...If the playing field is not level, then certainly all options are open.”
Trump first hinted at it within hours of triggering outrage with his ban-Muslims remarks, tweeting a poll finding that 68% of his supporters will back him as an independent.
He doubled down in the interview to CNN.
A new poll conducted after his anti-Muslims remarks may give a clue to his refusal to back down — almost two-thirds of Republicans likely to vote in 2016 backed his call.
This poll by Bloomberg Politics/Purple Strategies PulsePoll also showed 37% support among all general elections voters, cutting across party lines, for Trump’s controversial plan.
“We believe these numbers are made up of some people who are truly expressing religious bigotry and others who are fearful about terrorism and are willing to do anything they think might make us safer,” Doug Usher, who runs polling for Washington-based Purple Strategies, said in his analysis of the findings cited by Bloomberg.
“This indicates that, despite some conventional wisdom expressed in the last 48 hours, this is unlikely to hurt Trump at least in the primary campaign.”
Trump seems to have survived this, as the other so-called missteps before, and may even stand to benefit from it, as it may be reflected in polls conducted post those remarks.
He continues to lead in all polls, every state by a huge margin, as those behind him rise and fall — Ted Cruz is running second in some polls now, displacing Ben Carson.