If the Republicans are too mean to me, Donald Trump threatened Wednesday, I might just run as a third party candidate in the 2016 presidential election.
"I'll have to see how I'm being treated by the Republicans," Trump told The Hill newspaper when asked whether he might consider an independent bid. "Absolutely, if they're not fair, that would be a factor."
Trump said "so many" people want him to run, if he fails to clinch the GOP nomination. And he suggested the Republican National Committee has done itself no favors with its shabby treatment of him.
"The RNC has not been supportive. They were always supportive when I was a contributor. I was their fair-haired boy," he said. "The RNC has been, I think, very foolish."
If Trump ditches the GOP and stages a third party bid, he'd likely spoil the party's chance of winning the general election by siphoning conservative votes away from the Republican nominee.
He's previously declined to rule out an independent bid, but Wednesday's interview marked the first time he's said his treatment by the GOP will play a role in that decision.
The reality TV star and billionaire businessman launched his improbable bid in June. His provocative rhetoric on the stump has caught fire among the conservative base, but it's sown worries among party elders that it's damaging the GOP brand.
After he labeled Mexican immigrants criminals and "rapists" in his kickoff speech, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus called him to ask him to mind his tone. And when he questioned Arizona Sen. John McCain's status as a war hero last Saturday - McCain spent years in captivity during the Vietnam war but Trump said he prefers "people that weren't captured" - the RNC issued a statement condemning Trump's remarks.
"Senator McCain is an American hero because he served his country and sacrificed more than most can imagine. Period," RNC spokesman Sean Spicer declared in a statement. "There is no place in our party or our country for comments that disparage those who have served honorably."
Trump has rocketed to the top of national GOP primary polls in recent days, and he admitted to the Hill, "I'm surprised that I'm this high."
But he had a ready explanation.
"I'm not surrounded by all sorts of pollsters and PR people," he said. "I speak the truth. Our country is in big trouble, and I know how to turn it around."