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'The Donald' has a trump card up his sleeve: third-party ticket

Donald Trump maintains that he will run third-party if he is 'not treated fairly.'

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Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump talks to the media before giving the key note speech at the Republican Party Lincoln Day event in Birch Run, Michigan, Tuesday.

Rebecca Cook/Retuers

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Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has denied rumors that he may not run as a third-party candidate if he loses the Republican primary. 

“I'm leading all over the place and I want to run as a Republican," Mr. Trump said in a CNN interview on Tuesday. "If I am treated fairly that's the way it's going to be but I want to keep that door open. I have to keep that door open because if something happens where I'm not treated fairly, I may very well use that door.” 

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Trump’s declaration came after a senior advisor told ABC News on Monday that the real estate mogul was considering taking the pledge not to run on another party’s ticket if he doesn’t earn the Republican nomination.

At the start of the first GOP debate last Thursday, moderator Bret Baier asked the candidates to raise their hands if they could not promise to not run against the eventual Republican nominee. 

Trump was the only one who raised his hand, saying, “I can totally make that pledge if I am the nominee, I will not run as independent.”

The possibility of a third-party Trump run is worrying for Republicans, as it would likely siphon votes away from the Republican nominee, leading to a Democratic victory in the November 2016 election. 

But running third-party could prove to be a challenge for Trump. 

“His most immediate problem would be ballot access. Each state has its own requirements for collecting enough valid signatures to get a third-party candidate on the ballot, but the process is both labor- and money-intensive everywhere,” writes Scott Conroy for The Huffington Post, adding that meeting the criteria for entry into the general election debates could also be a serious obstacle for The Donald. 

In some states, it could even be illegal for Trump to run a third-party or independent campaign, thanks to “sore loser laws” that block someone who runs and loses in a party primary from running in the general election as a third-party and/or independent candidate.

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Some form of sore loser laws exist in 47 states. They typically don’t apply to presidential elections, but in states like Ohio and Michigan, they do.

“If Republicans pass similar measures in other swing states, the damage from a third-party or independent Trump candidacy could be contained,” writes Andrew Prokop for Vox. “It's a sort of nuclear option that the party could take in a last-ditch effort to stop Trump from tanking their presidential chances.”