Vice President Trump?
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Donald TrumpDonald TrumpNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech On The Trail: Cuomo and Newsom — a story of two embattled governors McCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 MORE doesn’t strike me as a right-side-of-the-slash sort of guy. After all, a man whose ego can be spotted from the International Space Station probably fancies himself as being above the office of vice president. Not to mention the fact that he's currently perched atop all the major polls like King Kong, swatting down whichever pesky Republican flies too close to him. But Trump hasn't wrapped up the nomination by any means. Right now, there are three possible outcomes to the GOP primary: 1) Trump wins; 2) Trump loses and launches an independent bid for the presidency; and 3) Trump loses and goes back to griping about politics from the sidelines.

Unfortunately, each of these three outcomes could be a Defcon-Perot level disaster for the GOP.

The first outcome is the most obvious disaster because — sorry Rush Limbaugh, Breitbart News Network and the rest of the Trump apologists — Trump is an unacceptable candidate, an Orwellian nightmare on the fringes of American political thought who is only slightly less frightening than Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). His campaign, which started out as a kick in the teeth to the politically correct culture of politics, has become a classless Comedy Central roast of anyone who isn't on board with his agenda. His campaign is like one of those troll-infested gutters of social media decyberized into reality. He's a fringe character, the Republican Party's own Sanders. If he were running against two other candidates (as Sanders is), he would be far behind. However, with the GOP sane vote being split across a dozen candidates, Trump's plurality emerges and suggests some sort of wide-ranging support that doesn't actually exist.


The second outcome is the most frightening of all. A third-party run from Trump would split the Republican vote in the general election and allow probably Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to easily enter the White House through the back door. And Trump can do it. He's "very, very rich." He signed a piece of paper saying he'd support the eventual nominee, but it isn't legally binding. Plus, in order for the deal to be upheld, the GOP has to treat Trump fairly, and — in case people haven't noticed yet — Trump only thinks people are treating him fairly when they genuflect, agree with everything he says and then sing a song about how lucky we are to live on his planet. In the end, Trump will launch an independent bid if he wants, regardless of any non-legally-binding-and-therefore-meaningless piece of paper he may have signed.

The third outcome is a less obvious disaster and probably the result Reince Priebus prays for before meals and at bedtime, but, if an establishment (aka low-energy) Republican winds up snatching the nomination from Trump — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz or (God forbid) former Florida Gov. "Jeb!" Bush — and Trump goes gentle into that good night, the nominee still has a major problem on their hands: a Trump-created time bomb of disenfranchised voters from every nook and cranny of the party. If this fully Trumpified faction of the party is too disappointed at Trump's loss, they might sit out 2016 altogether (the same thing that happened to Romney in 2012). If that happens, the 2016 curtain will close after a terrifying President Hillary Clinton ending.

Nothing can be done to fix the "Trump wins" outcome. The  Dump Trump Republicans will just have to sit back and bank on the fact that Limbaugh is right 99.7 percent of the time. But there is a fix for the second two outcomes. Whoever wins the nomination will have to seriously consider choosing Trump as their running mate — even if they'd rather pull out their teeth with rusty forceps. If he is on the ticket, he can't launch an independent bid, and he can capture the base vote which may otherwise be lost to disillusionment. It's a classic case of keeping one's enemies close, and, frankly, you're better off having Trump with you than against you.

But by choosing Trump as a running mate, the nominee could solve two big problems — and in the process, create a million more.

Zipperer is assistant professor of political science at Georgia Military College.