When Trump first took the polling lead in the primary this past summer, he defanged the Republican establishment operatives eager to attack him by threatening to mount an independent candidacy, if the party didn’t treat him well.
To neutralize this threat, the Republican National Committee (and its handmaidens at Fox News) sought an assurance from him that he would support the GOP nominee no matter who won, and foreclose the third-party option altogether.
But they could only pull this off by isolating Trump—by getting everyone else in the field to make the same pledge, then making him look craven and unsportsmanlike for holding out.
Of course, another way to put it is that the RNC got over a dozen Republican presidential candidates to promise to support Trump if he wins the nomination. Trump happily pocketed those promises when he agreed to sign the pledge himself … but only under the condition that the party agree to treat him fairly. A loophole the size of a Trump skyscraper.
Months later, Trump is still leading, and panicked operatives are leaking last-ditch attack plans to the press. Trump, unsurprisingly, is characterizing these plans as violations of his agreement with the RNC, and reissuing his third-party threat.
Almost every leading figure in the party has promised to support Trump if he wins the nomination, and he’s cowing them into foregoing coordinated efforts to defeat him. Maybe he is just better at this than they are.