. But, if Trump were to run as an independent, his support would likely fade. Since the first Gallup poll in 1936, there have been five independent or third-party campaigns in which a candidate received at least 5 percent of the vote in early polls. All but George Wallace in 1968 ended up with a lower percentage of the vote than they initially garnered, according to
In fact, both Ross Perot in 1992 and George Wallace in 1968 faded more down the stretch than these numbers suggest. Perot polled at an amazingly high 39 percent in summer 1992 (that was before he dropped out and then re-entered the race). Wallace reached the low 20s in late September 1968 and then dropped steadily as Election Day approached.
Still, third-party candidates who poll well early don’t drop off the map completely. Even John Anderson, whose campaign pretty much collapsed, got more than 5 percent of the vote in 1980. That should be somewhat worrisome to Republicans because Trump would pull most of his support from the GOP standard bearer. In that ABC News/Washington Post survey, Bush dropped from 44 percent without Trump to 30 percent with him; Clinton fell only 4 percentage points (50 percent to 46). That’s a tremendous effect for a third-party candidate.
The outcome of almost every recent presidential election with a major third-party candidacy would have remained the same without that candidate, according to
. If the Republican National Committee doesn’t treat him fairly, Trump says, he’ll be more likely to launch a third-party run. I don’t know if he is at all serious, but I do know two things: History suggests that an independent Trump campaign would crash and fail; polling suggests that even if that happened, Trump could take the Republican candidate down with him.