By Ben Kamisar - 07-27-15 07:44 AM EDT
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Monday said GOP presidential candidates shouldn’t seek a third-party challenge for the White House, less than a week after Donald Trump floated the idea in an exclusive interview with The Hill.
“Our candidates should pledge not to run as a third-party candidate,” Priebus said on NBC’s “Today,” adding that he doesn’t expect any 2016 GOP candidate to run a third-party campaign if they don’t win the Republican nomination.
“I think everyone understands that if Hillary Clinton is going to get beat, she is going to get beat by a Republican and most people that run for president run to win. If our candidates want to win, then they will have to run as a Republican.”
The chairman’s comments come days after Trump told The Hill that he would “absolutely” consider a third-party bid for president if the RNC treats him unfairly through the debate process.
“The RNC has not been supportive. They were always supportive when I was a contributor. I was their fair-haired boy,” Trump said last Wednesday. “The RNC has been, I think, very foolish.”
On Sunday, Trump said RNC officials became “really nice” after The Hill interview.
“They’ve been really nice over the last few days, they’re starting to see what’s happening,” Trump said on CNN’s “State of the Union with Jake Tapper.”
The real-estate magnate turned GOP candidate has repeatedly clashed with the RNC during his brief candidacy. Priebus reportedly called Trump and asked him to tone his rhetoric down after controversial statements about Mexican immigrants. And the party issued a statement panning Trump’s recent comments on Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) war record.
Priebus didn’t directly address those criticisms of Trump but did tell “Today” host Savannah Guthrie that “tone matters and how you speak matters,” a message likely directed at Trump.
While many in the party are skeptical that he’ll finish with the nomination, Trump has been skyrocketing up the polls since last month’s announcement and is now in the top tier nationally and in early primary states.
Priebus also framed the party’s new debate format, which limits the prime-time debate to only the top 10 candidates, as the party taking control of the process. Many Republicans have criticized the party for ceding too much control to the media.
“We’ve taken control of the debates, we’ll have fewer debates, we’ll have some say over who the moderators are … and we’ll have a definite calendar,” he said. Priebus added that every candidate will debate on primary night, since the networks added a second event with the rest of the field ahead of the main-stage debate.
He added that the robust number of perspectives is good for the party and would give it a leg up over Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee.
“It’s not bad to have a battle instead of a coronation like Hillary Clinton,” he said.
“No one is asking the question of when is Hillary Clinton going to debate Bernie Sanders ... there seems to be no interest on the other side."