Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump had previously vowed to run on a third-party ticket in 2016, should he feel the Republican National Committee is giving him a raw deal.
On Monday, Trump repeated that threat, implying he was willing to break ranks with the GOP if the Republican establishment continues to use what Trump alleges are dirty tactics.
The declaration came as the GOP race entered an increasingly nasty phase, with numerous negative ads airing on local television following an unusually caustic debate this past weekend.
Some of the harshest ads have been aimed at Trump, often using the political newcomer’s past words to attack his current positions on issues including abortion and gun rights.
Trump is disliked by the Republican establishment, according to the bombastic billionaire, and he accused the GOP of packing its debate audiences with mainstream donors — a move he claimed violated the loyalty pledge he signed in September vowing to run as a Republican and support the party’s eventual nominee.
“I signed a pledge, but it’s a double-edged pledge,” Trump said at a luncheon in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. “The pledge isn’t being honored by the RNC.”
Trump also went on the attack against rival presidential candidate Ted Cruz. “If he doesn’t take down his false ads and retract his lies,” Trump said in a statement bashing Cruz, he will immediately file a lawsuit challenging Cruz’s eligibility to serve as president.
Trump has previously said a federal court should decide whether Cruz meets the constitutional requirement of being a “natural-born citizen” to serve as president. Cruz was born in Canada to an American mother, and many legal experts have said he meets that test.
“Ted Cruz is a totally unstable individual. He is the single biggest liar I’ve ever come across, in politics or otherwise, and I have seen some of the best of them. His statements are totally untrue and completely outrageous,” Trump said in the statement.
At events in the Charleston area and at a rally in Greenville, Trump piled on, slamming Cruz as “the most dishonest guy I think I’ve ever met in politics, “nuts” and a “basket case.” He also questioned Cruz’s faith.
“He goes around saying he’s a Christian. I don’t know, you’re going to have to really study that,” Trump said at a freewheeling news conference.
Laurens resident Tom Kennemore, who attended Trump’s evening rally in Greenville, said he grows uneasy when Trump starts tearing into fellow Republicans. But he also appreciates Trump’s willingness to tell the truth no matter what.
“I’m done with establishment people,” he said.” The Republicans have taken the House and Senate and done nothing with it. We need a little more kick.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.