RNC's Priebus takes dim view of anti-Trump third party talk

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[May 14, 2016]  By Steve Holland
 WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The chairman of the Republican National Committee sought on Friday to tamp down talk among some Republicans about the possibility of running a third-party candidate who would give party supporters a choice beyond Donald Trump.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus introduces Florida Gov. Rick Scott during a luncheon at the Republican National Committee Spring Meeting at the Diplomat Resort in Hollywood, Florida April 21, 2016. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

In an interview, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said a third-party candidate would have no hope of actually winning the Nov. 8 presidential election but would instead ensure victory for the Democratic nominee.

"They may as well jump off the top floor of a building because that’s what we’d be doing by having a third party," Priebus said.

Priebus has been a vocal advocate for party loyalists to get over their concerns about Trump and support him since he is on track to become the presidential nominee and stands as the only real option for Republicans to win the White House.

He brought Trump together with House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan for a meeting in Washington on Thursday to try to ease Ryan's concerns about backing the billionaire.

Ryan stopped short of endorsing Trump but said the session was productive. Priebus said the two men have opened a dialogue.

"My guess is they may even be talking today and through the weekend (on the phone)," he said.

Priebus said a Democratic victory would allow Democrats to reshape the conservative majority on the Supreme Court. If Republican donors sit on the sidelines, Democrats could also take over control of the U.S. Senate, he said.

"If you don't participate in the presidential election you might as well kiss away the Senate as well," Priebus said in a message directed at Republican donors unenthusiastic about Trump. "The Senate goes as the presidential race goes. They’re inextricably intertwined."

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Some Republicans continue to hold out hope that a leading figure in the party could be persuaded to run for president as a third-party candidate to give party voters uncomfortable with Trump a candidate to rally around.

Some speculation has centered around 2012 nominee Mitt Romney, who has been a frequent critic of Trump. Just this week Romney said Trump should release his tax records, a public disclosure move that Romney made in 2012 but which Trump has been resisting.

Some Republicans have been urging Romney to launch an independent bid for the presidency. He discussed the issue last week with William Kristol, editor of the conservative-leaning Weekly Standard magazine, a source close to Romney said.

(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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