Knowing Trump, that's simply not going to happen. Trump loves the attention he is getting and the movement he has built. No good businessman would walk away from such a committed base of consumers, er, supporters. And we all know that Trump is not a good businessman, he is a great businessman. Believe me.
The moves Trump has made over the past week suggest where he might be headed if he loses this fall — and it's something close to a worst-case scenario for establishment Republicans hoping Trump just goes away. The hiring of Breitbart News executive Stephen Bannon to a top job in the campaign and Trump's association with deposed Fox News head honcho Roger Ailes means that two of the biggest behind-the-scenes operators in conservative media circles are now close to the Republican nominee. A nominee, who, not for nothing, became a celebrity thanks to reality shows — and has run a made-for-cable-TV campaign for president.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out that some sort of conservative media venture may be in the offing. And, if that comes to pass, it badly complicates the strategy of establishment Republicans who will be looking to a) fend off President Hillary Clinton's agenda while also b) try to rebuild the party in hopes of winning the White House back in 2020.
Consider how much damage the tea party/populist right did to establishment Republicans during the past several years. They chased John Boehner out of the House speakership. They closed down the government. They routinely rejected Republican-offered compromises on taxes and spending only to watch as worse deals were, eventually, crammed down their throats. And, most important, they elected Trump as the Republican presidential nominee.
Now imagine what that faction within the party could do with their own TV network run by Trump. Sure, Fox News helped foster some of the sentiments that drove Trump and the tea party during the past few years but there are also lots of voices on FNC — Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly etc. — who were doing objective reporting, too. What if the primary source of news for conservatives becomes the Trumpington Post? (Sidebar: I wish I had thought up "Trumpington Post." But the credit for that one goes to Politico media reporter Joe Pompeo.) Or Trump TV? Where the only message is what Trump, Bannon and Ailes approved of?
The damage that sort of high-profile endeavor could do to what many Republicans already acknowledge will be a difficult rebuilding process post-November is incalculable. Every single day, Trump or one of his chosen surrogates — Rudy Giuliani with a law-and-order type show, a morning show hosted by Chris Christie and Ann Coulter — could bash Republicans as insufficiently committed to core principles or afraid to fight President Clinton. Like the tea party agitators of earlier this decade, they would be totally free of any burden to vote on anything or propose any sort of legislation; their calls for "better deals" would be entirely consequence free.
And, in so doing, they would influence a whole lot of rank-and-file Republicans in the process. Remember that Trump took more than 13 million votes in the Republican primary process. No matter what you think of him, he has demonstrated a very real appeal with a not-insignificant chunk of Republican voters. When Trump talks, a bunch of Republicans listen. And if Trump starts his own TV network, he retains a huge microphone to broadcast his views.
A Trumpington Post — or something similar to it — would ensure Trumpism continues well beyond this presidential election. It would also make it nearly impossible for Republicans to move on from Trump since he won't fade away post election. That's a big problem for a GOP hoping that the post-Trump era would begin on Nov. 9.