Donald Trump Refuses to Rule Out Third-Party Candidacy

At an Iowa Republican gathering, he edges closer to playing the spoiler.

Republican Presidential Candidates Address 2015 Family Leadership Summit

AMES, IA - JULY 18: Republican presidential hopeful businessman Donald Trump fields questions at The Family Leadership Summit at Stephens Auditorium on July 18, 2015 in Ames, Iowa. According to the organizers the purpose of The Family Leadership Summit is to inspire, motivate, and educate conservatives.

Photographer: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Donald Trump on Saturday refused to rule out running for the White House as a third-party candidate if he loses his bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

"No. No," Trump said at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa. "I won’t go on record as saying that."

The comment drew a smattering of applause from the socially conservative crowd, following by one person yelling, "Good for you!"

Trump was responding to a question from an attendee, who said that Republicans lost the 1992 presidential election due to the third party candidacy of Ross Perot, and asked Trump  to commit to not to run as an independent.

"This country has great potential," Trump continued. "But soon it's not going to have that potential because we're being trained by incompetent leaders, by horrible people."

A third party candidacy by Trump, who has surged to the top of several Republican polls by channeling Tea Party sentiments about immigration and other issues, is a nightmare scenario for the Republican Party. The fear is he would drain votes from the party's nominee and inadvertently help Democrats win the election.

In 1992, Democrat Bill Clinton won 43.0 percent of the popular vote nationwide, to Republican incumbent George H. W. Bush's 37.5 percent.  Perot received 18.9 percent of the vote, arguably pulling support from both Bush and Clinton.

Earlier in July, Trump had told the conservative-leaning Washington Examiner that Perot had "totally" spoiled the election for Republicans and that "many, many people ask" him about third party run today.

"My sole focus is to run as a Republican," he said at the time. "I'm a conservative Republican."

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