Republican Party Circulating Loyalty Oath Aimed At Donald Trump

The RNC wants Donald Trump to sign an oath that he will not run as a third-party candidate if he doesn't win the Republican nomination.

Trump Announcement

Republican Party officials are reportedly considering asking candidates for President to take an oath to not run as a third-party candidate, a move that is quite obviously aimed at Donald Trump:

The GOP is taking its most aggressive step yet to force Donald Trump’s hand.

The Republican National Committee on Wednesday privately reached out to GOP presidential candidates to ask whether they’d be willing to sign a pledge stating they would not run as an independent candidate in the event they fail to win the Republican nomination in 2016.

The move is an implicit challenge to Trump, who pointedly refused to rule out a third-party run during the first GOP debate. He was the only candidate who declined.

The language of the draft pledge speaks directly to the issue vexing Republicans – the possibility that the billionaire could choose to wage a third party bid if he fails to win the GOP nomination, a prospect that could seriously damage the GOP’s prospects of reclaiming the White House. Tapping into deep anti-establishment animosity among the conservative grassroots, Trump has surged to the lead of the deepest presidential field in recent memory. If Trump were to pull just a fraction of the vote as an independent, write-in or third party candidate, it could be enough to sink the eventual Republican nominee.

“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,” the pledge reads. “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.”

 

 

At least two campaigns reported Wednesday that they received a call from Katie Walsh, RNC chief of staff, asking if they would be willing to sign such a pledge.

An RNC spokeswoman, Allison Moore, declined to comment. The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Trump and RNC chairman Reince Priebus are slated to meet in New York City on Thursday, a Trump spokeswoman confirmed. The two are also expected to appear at a press conference.

This is an issue that has been in the background of the 2016 Presidential race ever since Donald Trump got into the race. From the beginning, Trump refused to rule out the possibility that he could run as a third party or independent candidate if her did not get the Republican nomination. At the August 6th Republican debate, the first question asked was whether any of the candidates would refuse to rule out an independent bid, a question obviously aimed solely at Trump, and he was the only candidate who said that he could not rule out doing so. More recently, Republican Party officials in several states have considered requiring candidates who appear on their primary ballot to take a pledge that they would support the nominee of the party and rule out running on the own in the General Election. There have also been reports that Trump was considering signing such loyalty oaths, or making a pledge not to run in the General Election if he failed to win the nomination.

The RNC’s move here is understandable and, indeed, relevant FEC regulations would allow them to exclude candidates who don’t vow not to run as an independent from future debates, but the move also carries with it some considerable risk. Most importantly, it is not at all clear that such a pledge is even enforceable. If Trump or another candidate refused to take the oath, the RNC on its own does not have the authority to prevent them from appearing on the ballot in primary states, and it doesn’t have the authority to bar sponsoring organizations other than the RNC itself to bar Trump from appearing at future debates. If Trump did take the oath and then decided to run as an independent candidate if he does not get the nomination, then there’s nothing the RNC can do on its to stop him doing so. Additionally, it seems clear that these oaths are at the very least legally suspect since it does not appear that there is any law authorizing the RNC to mandate such a pledge, and doing so would seem to be a classic example of compelled speech, especially if taking the oath were made a requirement to appear on any primary ballot. Beyond these logistical and legal problems, though, an oath such as this is problematic for the RNC because it tends to play into the very anti-establishment themes that Trump is using in his campaign.

Even if the RNC’s loyalty pledge idea doesn’t pan out, there are other legal methods that would go a long way toward hobbling any effort by Trump to mount an independent bid for President. Nearly every state in the country has some form of what are generally known as “sore loser” laws that prevent a candidate who lost a primary bid from running for the same office in the General Election as an independent. Most states require that the candidates name actually have appeared on the ballot, but the fact that they may have stopped active campaigning prior to the primary will not save them from the law. Gary Johnson learned this lesson in Michigan in 2012 when he was unable to get on the General Election ballot as the Libertarian Party nominee because his name appeared on the Republican Primary ballot earlier in the year even though he had already ended his campaign for the Republican nomination at that point. Trump would face a similar problem, indeed the only states that he wouldn’t have a “sore loser” problem would be Connecticut, Iowa, New York, and Vermont, thus making a viable third-party campaign nearly impossible if he ended up on the primary ballot in most of the country. Some people have argued that these laws are unconstitutional, but no court has accepted that argument to date. Therefore, even without a loyalty oath the threat of a Trump independent candidacy may be vastly overstated.

There are some reports this morning that Trump will sign the RNC oath. In that case, this debate will largely be over for now. However, as I noted above, signing the pledge doesn’t necessarily preclude him from running as an independent next year. Except this issue, and the speculation of Trump’s intentions in 2016 if he doesn’t win the election, to continue.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. grumpy realist says:

    Trump is a last-call candidate who looks good in the boozy dark of political inebriation.

    Just had to quote this.

  2. al-Ameda says:

    There are some reports this morning that Trump will sign the RNC oath. In that case, this debate will largely be over for now. However, as I noted above, signing the pledge doesn’t necessarily preclude him from running as an independent next year. Except this issue, and the speculation of Trump’s intentions in 2016 if he doesn’t win the election, to continue.

    Doug, in the case of American Politics, If it wasn’t for the Republican Party (and perhaps the Clintons) we’d have nothing to blog and talk about. The GOP is amazing.

    On topic, I happen to think that caving in to a demand to sign a loyalty oath is the surest way to shed potential support as a possible Independent. It most certainly would diminish his current temporary status as a popular insurrectionary candidate. Signing an oath would say to angry-mad-as-hell types, “see, I’m just another party-first hack.”

  3. Argon says:

    Don’t loyalty oaths run afoul with the Constitution?

  4. grumpy realist says:

    @Argon: Yes, well, there’s that possible little wrinkle as well….

    OT, but I just had to post this. Um, wow. How stupid do you have to be to lose a pet king cobra?

  5. Ron Beasley says:

    This is a desperate move by the Republican establishment who realize they have lost control to the teapublicans.

  6. Tony W says:

    A party with full confidence in their candidate would not ask for a loyalty oath. That speaks volumes.

  7. Rafer Janders says:

    @al-Ameda:

    On topic, I happen to think that caving in to a demand to sign a loyalty oath is the surest way to shed potential support as a possible Independent. It most certainly would diminish his current temporary status as a popular insurrectionary candidate. Signing an oath would say to angry-mad-as-hell types, “see, I’m just another party-first hack.”

    Nah, not at all. It’s all upside for Trump. Sign the oath, and he gets to campaign as a loyal Republican — his issues, in fact, become Republican issues, as through the oath he gets the imprimatur of the GOP. If, later on, he decides to run as an independent, he’ll just forgot all about the oath, his followers won’t care, and there’s nothing the Reince Priebus or anyone else can do about it.

  8. gVOR08 says:

    Following precedent established by W, can Trump sign it and add a signing statement that it only applies if Republicans are nice to him and he gets the nomination?

  9. Pinky says:

    @gVOR08: James Monroe established the precedent of signing statements.

  10. JohnMcC says:

    Two thoughts: First is that the best description I’ve heard of what Mr Trump is doing is conducting a 3rd party campaign inside the Repub party. Wish I could remember where I saw that so I could make a link but….well, I’m old and I go lots of places.

    Second is that this means Mr Trump figures he can win this thing. And I’ll be damned if I see a good reason to disagree with that assertion. Every projection that he will lose depends on some event occurring that causes the 1/4th to 1/3rd of R’s who love him today to desert him sometime soon. Perhaps he will offend them or some negative campaigning by a ‘main-stream-conservative’ will wake them up or some magic formula will fall into some Senator’s or Governor’s hand. I just do not see any sign that will happen. Mr Trump has said outrageous things and only gained more ‘market share’ with every poll taken. At the very least, he will arrive in Cleveland for the Repub convention with a ferocious crowd of supporters ready to take on all comers. The closest thing I can recall to this is the 1964 Convention in which Goldwater supporters made the convention floor a ‘no-go’ area for Gov Rockefeller.

  11. michael reynolds says:

    I like that Trump is basically proving me right. From the start I said the Tea Party was about white panic not taxes. I said the GOP was being taken over by its Jesus wing and that racism was a major part of their world view. And I said those voters were not about issues but emotion and that the emotions involved were fear and rage.

    Don’t listen to the fiction writer if it’s about numbers. Do listen to the fiction writer when it’s about humans and their motivations. Kinda what I get paid for. That and lurid descriptions of violence and gore.

  12. grumpy realist says:

    Someone over at Bloomberg believes that the Republican Party has managed to get Donald Trump to knuckle under by signing this….

    (Um, but no. Just no.)

    Has anyone seen The Economist’s latest cover?

  13. Ben Wolf says:

    @michael reynolds: Notice also his supporters either agree with or don’t care Trump’s economic policy positions are to the left of every other Republican candidate. He’s even proposed higher taxes for the wealthy. It’s the race-baiting they respond to.

  14. michael reynolds says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    Plus ça change, plus c’est la même assholery.

    Edited for circumflex. One doesn’t want to be accused of ignoring circumflexes.

  15. JohnMcC says:

    @michael reynolds: Mr Reynolds, thank you, thank you. You actually have had me looking up ‘accent aigu’ and ‘accent grave’ for the first time in over 50 yrs. Well played, sir!

  16. michael reynolds says:

    @JohnMcC:

    Those are about all I remember from being a kid in French school in Rochefort (Charente) in 1962. That and the invaluable trou du cul, which I probably shouldn’t have known, being only 8 at the time.

  17. the Q says:

    The longer Trump stays relevant and in the lead of the GOP, the better the chances of ANY Dem winning.

    He has been a God send to the Dems as he is blowing up the wingnuts and forcing them to take outlandish positions guaranteed to alienate voters in the General.

    Viva la Trump….he is assuring a Dem President next November.

  18. Grewgills says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Those are about all I remember from being a kid in French school in Rochefort (Charente) in 1962.

    Rochefort Belgium? I love their ale. The 12 is my favorite Belgian ale.