HANAHAN, South Carolina — 2016 GOP presidential frontrunner Donald J. Trump tells reporters here that his pledge to support the eventual GOP nominee is now void because the Republican National Committee, along with local and state GOP factions, is stacking debate audiences with donor class officials.
“The RNC is in default,” Trump said at the press conference. “Just so you understand, the RNC is in default. When somebody is in default, that means the other side can do what they have to do. The RNC is in default.”
Trump’s point is that the RNC has defaulted—through its actions against his candidacy—on the pledge he signed earlier in the cycle, and his point is that because they have defaulted he can do whatever he wants. Trump is signaling he may not support the eventual GOP nominee in 2016 if that nominee is not him.
The significance of this development can’t be understated. The entire GOP presidential primary election has focused on this question, which was launched to the center of discussion by the first question at the first GOP debate in Cleveland, Ohio, back in August, 2015. That question, by Fox News’s Bret Baier, asked all the candidates on stage to raise their hands if they would support the eventual GOP nominee. Trump was the only one who didn’t raise his hand. That, and several other unseemly questions from Fox’s Megyn Kelly about Trump and women, catapulted into public view a then-private war between Trump and Fox that has lasted publicly to this day.
In the coming weeks, the RNC eventually negotiated it out with Trump to get him to sign a pledge to back the eventual nominee. He signed it. But Trump is now arguing that the RNC hasn’t been fair, and he says that means that the RNC, in his words, has defaulted on their end. So Trump says he can do whatever he wants if he doesn’t win the nomination. Of course, all of this could end up being a moot point should Trump win the nomination, as he’s fairly heavily favored to do at this point. But if he does lose, a world of possibilities has now opened up.
“The RNC gave all the tickets to special interests that represented Cruz and Rubio,” Trump said at the press conference, explaining how and why the RNC defaulted on their pledge.
They walked on stage, the place went crazy. It’s sort of interesting. One guy’s got like very low in the polls, the other one is very low in the polls. I’m very high in the polls. There’s nobody there for me except my wife and my kids because I don’t have donors. I don’t have donors and I don’t have special interests. But I think the RNC did a very poor job. We’ve warned them twice, because this happened twice before, and they don’t [fix it].
All of this leads Trump to believe that the RNC, like his opponents, is controlled by special interests and high-dollar donors who don’t have the well-being of the American public in mind. That, Trump says, is why Republicans have lost presidential elections in 2008 and 2012—and will lose in 2016 if the nominee isn’t the right person.
“I think the RNC is controlled,” Trump said. “The bottom line is the RNC is controlled by the establishment and the RNC is controlled by the special interests and the donors, and that’s too bad. And that’s why the Republican Party has lost for president for so long.”
Overall, Trump added, he’s “very disappointed” in the RNC.
“I’m very disappointed in the RNC, Republican National Committee,” Trump said.
I’m very disappointed in the RNC because for three debates now the room has been stacked with special interests and donors as you know, as the press knows. As an example, I gave two judges who were very conservative judges. I was met with nice applause. Bush got up and stumbled through an answer and the place went crazy. I said, ‘What are they doing?’ And then I realized all of these people—many of the people in that room I know, some are friends of mine. Some are waving to me and booing. They’re waving like this and they’re booing—they’re having fun. I get it. Some of them are friends of mine. They are special interests. They’re lobbyists. And that shouldn’t be. They have total control over the people I’m running against. Total, absolute control. I bring up the drug thing because the drug companies are going to go to competitive bid. Whether we save $100 billion a year or $350 billion a year, we’re going to competitive bid. These people can’t say that because the drug companies give them a fortune to run for office.
The RNC’s Sean Spicer has not responded to a request for comment in response to Trump’s comments on Monday.