Could Trump Lose GOP Primaries, and Legally Run in General Election?

If Donald Trump wants to see how he fares in the GOP primaries, and then run for president outside the GOP, there are only four states where his participation in a GOP primary could impact a non-Republican run in the general election.

Those four states are Mississippi, Texas, Ohio, and South Dakota, according to Ballot Access News editor Richard Winger.  What sets them apart from the other states is that their “sore loser” laws, which bar candidates from running as an independent candidate and/or third party candidate in the general election after losing a primary, impact presidential candidates. In most states with sore loser laws, that’s not the case.

What’s the upshot? Well, the earliest primaries among these four states are Ohio’s and Texas’s, which fall on March 6th, after over 20 state primaries have already been held. So Trump will most likely know whether he can win the GOP nomination or not before any of these four states have primaries, and if he’s decided to

The four are Mississippi, Texas, Ohio, and South Dakota. Out of those four, Ohio and Texas are currently scheduled to have the first primaries on March 6. By March 6, over 20 state primaries will already have been held. So Trump can stay in long enough to see if he can nab the nomination, and leave before these four primaries are even held.  That way, he doesn’t have to deal with any complication in those four states in the general election.

What if he does stay in, and then later decides to run outside the GOP?  Well then, if Trump decides to run as Independent, he couldn’t be on the ballot in any of the four states. But if he decides to run as a third-party candidate, he could run in three of the four states. Currently, Texas does not permit candidates who lose a primary to run as the candidate of a different party in the general election.

Bottom line: Trump can easily stay in for a large chunk of the GOP primary without hurting his ability to run as a third-party or independent candidate in the general election.

Katrina Trinko — Katrina Trinko is a political reporter for National Review. Trinko is also a member of USA TODAY’S Board of Contributors, and her work has been published in various media outlets ...

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