Billionaire insurgent and current leader in the national polls Donald Trump has reiterated that he would consider running as an independent or third party candidate if he gets hosed by the GOP establishment. With the idea slowly starting to sink in – to all but the buffoonish Rick Perry – that Mr. Trump is going to be sticking around for a while, the smears have slowed to a trickle and the prep for the first debate in Cleveland next week is commencing. The Donald has managed to get some face time in the national media now that it is no longer possible to just mock or ignore him and today he made an appearance on the Sunday morning McNews program ABC’s This Week.

Responding to questions from host Jonathan Karl, Trump played down the possibility of a donnybrook at the debate – at least as far as him starting one – and also defied RNC boss’s Reince Priebus’s demand that all candidates make a vow to not run as an independent. Politico reports that “Trump Leaves Door Open to Third-party Run”:

Donald Trump made clear on Sunday that he’s not ruling out a third-party run if his bid for the Republican presidential nomination falters.

In a phone interview on ABC’s “This Week,” the billionaire businessman-turned-political celebrity said he’d have “no interest” in running as a third-party candidate if he’s “treated fairly” by the Republican Party but “would certainly not give that up” if he felt burned.

“If I’m not treated fairly by the Republican Party, I very well might consider that,” Trump said, touting his surge in the public opinion polls to the top of the crowded GOP presidential field.

Trumps latest comments on a third-party bid followed a request by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus that Republican candidates pledge to not run as third-party candidates.

In a separate interview on ABC, one of Trump’s GOP rivals, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, said he’s “not concerned” about Trump leaving the door open to a third-party campaign.

“The Republican Party is going to treat every candidate fairly,” Santorum said. “They have rules. They’re going to live by those rules. And Donald Trump, like every other candidate, will rise and fall. And I don’t have any fear that Donald Trump somehow is going to be treated unfairly and therefore run as a third party candidate.”

It is easy for Mr. Santorum to promise fairness given that he has less than a snowball’s chance in Hell at making a serious run this time around. The ones that Trump needs to concern himself with are the top tier candidates who are beholden to the deep-pocketed donors and high rollers who are giving them the checks to underwrite their campaigns. For instance, the five candidates who made the pilgrimage to grovel for dough at the feet of the billionaire Koch Brothers in wealthy Orange County, California over the weekend. The Kochs have made no bones about their distaste for Trump, largely because he has his own money and doesn’t have to engage in the standard quid pro quo of modern day domestic politics. It is one reason why the more that Americans are seeing and hearing of Donald Trump the more popular that he becomes, a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows that he is still leading the pack.

Trump took to Twitter to rib his competition by writing – “I wish good luck to all of the Republican candidates that traveled to California to beg for money etc. from the Koch Brothers. Puppets?” – which won’t sit well with thin-skinned RINOS like “Jeb!” and “Lil Ricky” Rubio. Trump however did indicate that if someone else draws first blood at the debate then he would retaliate so be sure that you have plenty of popcorn on hand.

It’s a long haul until next the convention and Trump had best watch his back but he isn’t stupid and the party establishment had best heed his advice to treat him fairly or risk him being the second coming of Ross Perot.