Described as their worst fear, Republican insiders say an independent bid by Donald Trump for the White House would almost certainly result in the GOP losing the White House next year.
A survey of Republicans in The POLITICO Caucus found nearly 4 in 5, or 79 percent, believe it would be "impossible" or "very difficult" for the Republican nominee to win the general election if Trump launches a third-party campaign.
"If he runs, Hillary's the president," said GOP strategist Ford O'Connell. "The numbers just don't add up any other way."
The billionaire's threats to leave the GOP and run as an independent come amid growing concerns about the impact such a move would have on the race.
"Trump already dominates the headlines," said a Nevada GOP insider. "A run as an independent would be the main news story for six months. The Republican nominee would be forced to constantly respond to the makeup of the race and miss any opportunity to deliver their message to the American people."
Others surveyed said the electoral map is already tilted toward Democrats, making it difficult for a Republican candidate to garner enough electoral votes to win the presidency. They pointed to 1992 and 1996 when Bill Clinton won the presidency without getting a majority of the vote following the self-funded independent campaigns of Ross Perot.
One Iowa insider described Trump as "Ross Perot on steroids."
Following Trump's hints at an independent bid, Dr. Ben Carson made a similar threat to leave the GOP if party leaders attempt to take the nomination away from the apparent winner of the primary and caucus race.
Carson accused Republican Party leaders of trying to manipulate who wins the election.
"The party should not be doing anything that is deceptive and under the covers," Carson said.
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