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“Could upend the GOP”: Trump threatens to “retaliate” against Republicans if he loses nomination

By Matthew Chapman,


Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis speaks with U.S. President Donald Trump at a campaign rally at the Pensacola International Airport on November 3, 2018 in Pensacola, Florida. (Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump has made clear he is willing to throw the GOP under the bus in 2024 if they don't choose him as their nominee — effectively a threat to hand the election to Democrats and burn it all down for Republicans — reported Ed Kilgore for New York Magazine's "Intelligencer" on Thursday.

"Trump refused to commit to supporting the 2024 Republican presidential nominee in a conversation with conservative radio host and columnist Hugh Hewitt. 'It would depend,' Trump told Hewitt. 'I would give you the same answer I gave in 2016 during the debates,'" said the report. "Despite signing a 'loyalty pledge' going into the 2016 campaign, Trump periodically threatened to take his supporters right out of the Republican Party by launching a third-party or independent bid. As late as March 2016, he was repeating that threat, as Politico reported at the time."

The troubling thing for Republicans, wrote Kilgore, is that Trump wouldn't even necessarily have to mount a full third-party campaign for president in order to make good on his threat.

"If Republican leaders turn on Trump — say, to back Ron DeSantis — he will almost certainly complain that he's being treated unfairly and look to retaliate," said the report. "And he won't necessarily have to go as far as formally launching a third-party bid (though a recent poll from the Bulwark found 28 percent of Republican primary voters would vote for him if he ran as an independent)."

Rather, Kilgore noted, "A defeated Trump could upend the GOP's 2024 nominee simply by forcing the candidate to choose between publicly dissing him and alienating MAGA voters or sucking up to him in a way that would undermine any talk of a fresh start for the party. Anyone who thinks Trump wouldn't put his own pride ahead of the good of the Republican Party hasn't been paying attention."

Currently, polling still shows Trump leading the field of potential primary challengers, although no major candidates have yet stepped forward to challenge him. DeSantis has led Trump in some earlier polls, but is a relatively distant second in most. Still, he has managed to generate buzz from Washington GOP consultants and big-dollar party donors.

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