NASHVILLE — Donald Trump promised Saturday to make an announcement “very soon” on whether he will rule out running as an independent candidate, saying that “a lot of people are going to be very happy.”
In order to appear on the South Carolina GOP primary ballot, the Republican presidential candidate must pledge by Sept. 30 that he will not launch an independent or third-party bid if he fails to win the nomination. State parties have been trying to put the squeeze on the billionaire businessman, who has yet to rule out a potential spoiler role.
Trump has refused to firmly close the door on such a move, most notably during the Fox News debate earlier this month.
Speaking to the press after an hour-long speech to the National Federation of Republican Assemblies, the New Yorker said “the Republican Party has been treating me very, very fairly.”
“All I ask is fairness,” he said. “Over the next couple of weeks, you’re going to see some things that are very interesting.
"I’ve been treated very nicely. I’m leading in every poll … I have a great relationship to the Republican Party, to the conservatives, to the evangelicals. …" he said.
"In terms of victory, [running as a Republican] would certainly be the best path to victory,” he added. “We’re going to make a decision very soon, and I think a lot of people are going to be very happy.”
Trump also told reporters that he thinks former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina should be included on stage for the main CNN debate at the Ronald Reagan presidential library next month, suggesting that the only woman in the GOP field could replace Sen. Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican who trashed him during the first debate.
He presented it as a matter of fairness.
“I would like to see Carly on stage because from the last debate to now she has been doing better than a lot of the ones who will be on stage,” Trump said. “She’s been killing Rand Paul, but he’s on stage and she’s not.”
Trump also reiterated his support for higher taxes on the “hedge fund guys.”
“I want the hedge fund guys to pay more in taxes,” he said, as he worked the crowd on his way out of the event. Besides, he noted, they’re supporting Jeb Bush and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Speaking with reporters, Trump defended and repeated his earlier criticism of Clinton confidant Huma Abedin. On Friday night, he joked about former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner, her husband, and his sexting scandal. Trump suggested that Abedin might share classified information with Weiner, and that he might share it with others.
“It’s a very dangerous thing when she’s the receiver of so much of this very important information, and she’s married to a guy who is obviously psychologically disturbed,” he said here Saturday. “It is a very fair statement that I made, and a lot of people have congratulated me.”
Clinton spokespeople have called the attack a new low of "boorishness” and "disgraceful."
Asked if his own staff are fair game, Trump replied: “Sure they are.”
During his speech to a crowd of around 1,000 at a music venue and skate park called Rocketown, Trump criticized his own staff for putting up a sign at an event he had in Massachusetts Friday night that asked $100 per person for entry.
He said it allowed the press to describe it as a fundraiser when it should not have been called that.
“I spend millions of dollars on jet fuel,” he said. “I’m turning down millions. I don’t want your money!”
“I got so angry at my people because someone put up a sign saying $100,” he said. “First of all, its peanuts. It doesn’t mean anything. But they used it to try to marginalize me.”
“The bottom line,” he added, “is I’m self-funding my campaign.”
But Trump suggested that, if he is elected president, he might fundraise after all. He joked that he does not understand why President Obama leaves the White House because it is such choice real estate.
He said he would do fundraisers at the White House and try not to use Air Force One.
“Why would you want to leave? I think I’d maybe never leave,” he said. “Maybe there’s some rule against it, but I’d do the fundraisers in the White House.”
Indeed, it is a crime to raise money in the White House.