Most Republicans privately and some Republican publicly believe Donald Trump is doing a lot of damage to their “brand,” and fear he will do more if he spends some of his money and keeps himself on the stage of the presidential candidate debates. But here’s their biggest nightmare, noted by Politico‘s Daniel Strauss:

“I’ve had many, many people ask me about running as an independent,” Trump said in an interview Tuesday with The Washington Examiner’s Byron York. “My sole focus is to run as a Republican. I’m a conservative Republican.”

Still, Trump isn’t ruling out running under a different party banner.

“It’s something I’m not thinking about right now,” Trump continued in the interview. He added that he’s “doing well within the Republican ranks, and that gives us the best chance of defeating Hillary Clinton.”

Well, of course he’s not “thinking about it right now,” and wouldn’t admit it if he was. But the fact remains Trump has the four ingredients necessary for converting an unsuccessful primary campaign into an indie general election bid: (1) a huge ego; (2) a gigantic personal fortune; (3) total disdain for his GOP presidential rivals; and (4) a rationale for candidacy: namely, the fact that he holds views outside the mainstream of the GOP or indeed the two-party system.

He probably won’t waste his money on an indie bid, but the possibility that he might will force Republicans to be a lot nicer to the man than would normally be the case, and that, too, could be damaging to the “brand.” It’s quite a trap, and something to keep in the back of your mind as the cycle unfolds.

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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.