What if Donald Trump runs as an independent candidate?

Donald Trump said butting heads with the GOP may lead him to run as a third party candidate, but polls suggests this scenario would play out in Hillary Clinton's favor.

LM Otero/AP
Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks to reporters after arriving for a visit to the U.S. Mexico border in Laredo, Texas on Thursday. He recently told The Hill that spats with the Republican National Convention may impel him to run as an independent candidate, which may draw crucial votes away from the GOP.

Following pressure from the Republican National Convention to tone down his provocative commentary, Donald Trump has threatened to take his business – and his voter support – elsewhere.

In an interview with The Hill Wednesday, Mr. Trump said that if he continues to feel as though the RNC is not playing “fair,” he would consider shedding the Republican name and running as an independent. As the top-ranking Republican in recent polls, if Trump turned independent, many of the other GOP presidential candidates might breathe a sigh of relief. But data from ABC News/Washington Post suggests that ultimately, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton would be the one to reap the benefits in a three-way race.

Trump told The Hill he believed the RNC liked him better when he was writing them checks. If he does not win the Republican primary, he said the convention’s negativity toward him “would be a factor” in pushing him to run on a different ticket.

“The RNC has not been supportive. They were always supportive when I was a contributor. I was their fair-haired boy,” Trump said. “The RNC has been, I think, very foolish.”

But running as an independent may be counterproductive to both Trump and the RNC’s ends: it could divide the conservative voting bloc enough to neutralize the Republican electorate, effectively handing the White House to the Democrats. Some have likened the Trump as independent candidate to what happened when billionaire Ross Perot ran as an independent, and took 19 percent of the vote in the 1992 presidential election. 

Polling data predicts that if Trump were to run in a three-way race against Jeb Bush – the next-in-line Republican candidate – and Ms. Clinton, the votes he would divert from the GOP would keep Mr. Bush from winning, but would not be enough to best Clinton.

“In a general election trial heat, Clinton leads Bush, the GOP fundraising leader, by a slight 50-44 percent among registered voters,” ABC News reported. “But with Trump as an independent candidate that goes to 46-30-20 percent, Clinton-Bush-Trump – with Trump drawing support disproportionately from Bush, turning a 6-point Clinton advantage into 16 points.”

The RNC has most recently reprimanded Trump for saying Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) was not a war hero. But Trump said it is not his brash mouth that is alienating the party, but his lack of status with the political “in-crowd."

“I’m not in the gang. I’m not in the group where the group does whatever it’s supposed to do,” he said. “I want to do what’s right for the country – not what’s good for special interest groups that contribute, not what’s good for the lobbyists and the donors.”

He added that, in contrast with the politician “gang,” he is more about action than talking. “All they do is talk,” he said. “I don’t do that. I do other things. I’m a job creator” – a difference that he conceded might set him back in the debates,  but which poses a bigger challenge of balancing two time-consuming jobs:

“It’s very hard for a very successful person to run for political office – especially for president,” he said. “I get that now more than anything.”

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