In a crowded primary field, debates are all about setting yourself apart from the pack. In the first presidential debate hosted by Fox News, Donald Trump certainly did that by being the only candidate not to rule out a third party run should he lose the Republican nomination.
This should be concerning for Republicans. Trump has the money to mount a serious third party campaign, the spoiler effects of which would be obvious in the general election. Everyone remembers what happened with Ross Perot in 1992. The Republican vote was split, and Bill Clinton was elected instead of George H.W. Bush winning a second term.
It should come as no surprise to students of history that the circumstances that allowed Ross Perot to gain such popularity are remarkably similar to what we’re seeing today. Bush famously violated his "no new taxes" pledge, angering a base that was tired of being lied to. Ready to capitalize on that anger, was a straight-talking, political outsider billionaire. To many, he represented the American Dream and the antidote to all that was wrong with politics; someone who would tell the truth, even if it wasn’t politically correct.