Trump Pledges to Endorse GOP Nominee, Decline Third-Party Bid

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U.S. presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks during a press conference after signing a pledge with the Republican National Committee at Trump Tower in Manhattan, September 3. The pledge quells the possibility of Trump running as an independent and solidifies his campaign. Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Standing in the golden-mirrored lobby of his Fifth Avenue tower and before a human backdrop that included a delegation of Indonesian lawmakers, Donald Trump vowed to support the Republican Party's presidential nominee even if it isn't him.

"I will be totally pledging my allegiance to the Republican Party and the conservative principles for which it stands," the New York real estate scion said. In a rare bit of humility, he added that he hadn't extracted any promises in return. "I got nothing!"

The pledge seemed to put to rest the possibility of Trump running as an independent, a threatening prospect that he would be next year's Ross Perot and hand the White House to the Democrats. The Republican National Committee had reportedly started circulating the pledge to support the party's nominee three days ago, although only Trump among the candidates for the nomination had declined to make such a pledge. At last month's debate, he suggested that withholding his commitment would give him "leverage" to guarantee fair treatment by the Republican Party.

"Frankly, I felt that the absolute best way to win and to very easily beat the Democrats," he said today, "is if I win the nomination and go directly against whoever they have put up. And for that reason, I have signed the pledge."

Lawyers have debated whether the pledge is legally binding but by making a public show of his promise—even waving the pledge before the crowd—Trump left himself little room to change his mind at a later date. Plus, the difficulties of launching a third-party bid remain formidable.

Trump pledging his troth is the surest sign that his campaign can no longer be written off as mere entertainment. It also allows him to get on more primary ballots such as South Carolina and Virginia, which have "sore loser" rules preventing the awarding of delegates to those who fail to reject a third-party bid.

Asked whether, given his bankruptcies and other changes of heart, his word was good, Trump said: "I see no circumstance under which I would tear up that pledge."

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, who had extracted the promise during a private meeting prior to the press conference, did not appear with him. Asked why, Trump said, "I suggested, frankly, I'm fine with him not being here because I don't want anybody to think he's endorsing me."

He later elaborated on that. "I just wanna be treated like everybody else. I was always the fair-haired boy. I was the elite. Once I ran, I was a little bit of an outsider. I wasn't supposed to run. I'm a businessman."

Standing before a backdrop of supporters including a small delegation of Indonesian dignitaries including the speaker of the Indonesian House, the 69-year-old took a wide variety of questions on immigration, America's relative greatness and Carly Fiorina's making the next debate. And he took a shot at Jeb Bush, allowing he's "a very nice man," but insisting the former Florida governor is "a very low-energy person, and that's not what the country needs."

Trump said he was happy to hear Fiorina would join the top-tier debate on CNN this month, but he lamented the double-digit number of candidates on stage. "I don't like the fact that they have 11 people. They're not getting rid of Rand Paul or somebody! If they have 11, you're not going to hear me or any of the other people talking, and I think that's too bad!"