Donald Trump on Thursday pledged his allegiance to the Republican Party, scrawling his name across a document presented to him by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus in the same thick black magic marker that he uses to pen nastygrams to reporters and pundits who offend him.
In signing, Trump pledged to support the eventual Republican presidential nominee and to forego a run as a third-party candidate if he is not the GOP’s eventual choice. The document, which appears to be no more legally binding than, say, a politician’s campaign promises, nevertheless prompted a barrage of reactions from those who watched Trump’s half-hour long announcement.
One take? It was an unmitigated disaster for Trump.
“Donald Trump Just Signed His Political Death Warrant,” boomed Bloomberg.
Or maybe, it was a genius PR move by the real estate billionaire?
“Donald Trump Just Won. Again,” countered The Washington Post.
Could it be it was Trump being put in his place by the party whose banner he wants to carry in the general election campaign?
“Pressured By Party, Trump Signs Republican Loyalty Pledge,” wrote Reuters.
Or perhaps the GOP is now realizing that, like inmates imprisoned with Rorschach, Trump isn’t locked in the GOP with them. They’re locked in the GOP with him.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that this won’t mean much at all in the end. Though he has shown more staying power than most, the prevailing political wisdom is still that Trump’s campaign will eventually run out of gas, loyalty pledge or not, making whether he promises to stick with the GOP immaterial in the end.
“I ultimately don't think it matters much, although he might get something of a polling bump up from his presently strong numbers depending on how much coverage there is,” said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
“His candidacy still feels very much like a bubble, but strange things do happen. Practically speaking, he can still run as an independent if he wants to. Politicians change their minds all the time -- and, yes, Trump is a politician now. One becomes that when campaigning for and leading in the polls for the highest elected office in the world.”
For the time being, at least, Trump is officially a committed Republican, which takes the third-party issue off the table for the September 16 Republican debate. And he’s promising to play the role of GOP soldier to the hilt.
“I will be totally pledging my allegiance to the Republican Party and the conservative principles for which it stands,” Trump said Thursday afternoon, in a press conference broadcast on most major news stations across the country and covered obsessively by both traditional print and online media. “We will go out and fight hard, and we will win. We will win,” he said.
One interesting element of Trump’s presentation on Thursday was his apparent admission that he – the worldly New Yorker who relentlessly belittles other politician’s deal-making skills while insisting his own are practically superhuman – got out-negotiated by the Wisconsin-raised Priebus.
“I got nothing,” Trump told reporters. “The question was, what did I get for signing the pledge? Absolutely nothing, other than the assurance that I would be treated fairly. And I’ve seen that over the last two months, where they really have been very fair.”
Trump, who had the podium to himself -- Priebus having departed Trump Tower where the pledge was signed in Trump’s offices -- took a short batch of non-threatening questions after his announcement, brushing off some and diving in to others. The candidate, who has gained much of his support from people deeply concerned about illegal immigration, drew loud cheers from some in the audience when he repeated a theme that has been the subject of an ongoing tiff between him and fellow candidate Jeb Bush.
“I think that when you get right down to it, we're a nation that speaks English and I think while we are in this nation we should be speaking English,” he said to rising cheers. “Whether people like it or not, that's how we assimilate.”
It remains just how well Trump himself will assimilate into a Republican Party whose language he has in large part refused to adopt.