Why you shouldn’t underestimate the possibility that Donald Trump drops out

Consider this hypothetical: Donald Trump is sitting across from the God of Elections and is given a choice. He can a) apologize for his criticism of the Khan family and get a 15 point boost in the polls or b) be given a blank check to defend himself but give Hillary Clinton a 15 point boost.

Given the fact that this is not far off from what has actually happened over the past week, I’d say there’s a fairly strong possibility Trump would pick option b.

Because let’s be honest: Trump’s campaign is not about becoming president. It’s about himself. Plain and simple.

Look at the evidence. Just in the past few days, Trump refused to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan, the highest elected Republican in the country; he said he “always wanted” to receive a Purple Heart but that having one given to him was “much easier”; he said he has no regrets about his disasterous feud with the Khan family; he kicked out a baby at a campaign rally. And that’s just a sample.

These are not actions you would expect from a person that wants to be president. In fact, there is no question that these outburts have hurt Trump dearly in the polls, a fact he can see just as easily as anyone else and one his advisers certainly remind him of everyday. So unless you believe Trump literally has zero ability to contain himself––admittedly, not out of the question––then there’s no way to interpret his constant refusual to back-down as anything other than a lack of serious desire to be president, at least within the apparent bounds.

Instead, this kind of behavior is characterstic of someone who is far more concerned with feeding his own machismo. You just get the feeling that Trump rather lose on his feet, with his ego still intact, than be elected on his knees, bowing to the calculated judgement he associates with “weakness.”

Unless Trump can seriously cool down, there’s a good chance this race will get to a point where it becomes relatively clear Clinton is going to win. The polls are trending in favor of Clinton; the GOP establishment is becoming restless; the debates are mostly likely going to work against Trump. At that point, he’ll have two options: He can either take a massive pivot, apologize, and appeal to his fellow Republicans in a desperate effort to consolidate support, or he can throw up his arms, suspend his campaign, and continue rallying against the establishment through whatever grand project he is planning for when this is all over. Which do you think is the most realistic?

You can already see him laying the groundwork for an exit strategy. The complaints about the debate, the talk of the election being rigged; If he were, in fact, planning on leaving the race, it would be a solid foundation on which he can slip away from a loss while maintaining his credibility as the establishment-hating-bro everyone is talking about (a.k.a the ego-inflating image that is the sole reason he is running for president).

I’m not saying Trump is a goner; maybe the polls will stick around an equilibrium, maybe Clinton won’t have exceptional debates. More likely, maybe he’ll just lose and then attack the results. Obviously, a nominee for president vanishing from the race is a long-shot.

But the fact that you can even see the path for such a thing happening is worth noting. It’s a possibility we shouldn’t underestimate. I’d say crazier things have happened, but I’m not really sure they have…

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