GOP officials exploring what happens if Trump drops out, according to report

WASHINGTON -- Top GOP officials in the Republican party are reportedly exploring how to handle the possibility of Donald Trump quitting the race, according to an ABC News report.

While Trump has not publicly expressed any interest in quitting the race, officials are apparently "frustrated" and "confused" by Trump's erratic behavior and are exploring how they would replace him should he drop out.

Jon Karl, the chief White House correspondent for ABC News, appeared on Good Morning America on Wednesday and reported that

"I am told RNC chairman Reince Priebus is furious, that he has had multiple discussions with Trump telling him he needs to drastically change course. But here’s the news, I am told senior officials at the party are actively exploring what would happen if Trump dropped out, how to replace him on the ballot," Karl said on Wednesday.

In an email to MSNBC, Trump campaign spokesperson Hope Hicks addressed the speculation, saying: "There is no truth to this whatsoever."

The RNC can't force Trump out of the race -- he would have to voluntarily drop out. In the event Trump were to quit the race, the 168 members of the Republican National Committee would choose a new candidate.

"He is so unpredictable right now, they are so unable to control his message that they just don’t know and they clearly think it is a possibility, which is why they’re looking at these rules," Karl said.

According to CNN, Donald Trump aides and people close to his campaign are increasingly frustrated by his insistence on waging various fights that steer him off message.

Sources close to the campaign are describing a series of missteps that are trailing the GOP presidential nominee, most prominently his now multi-day battle against Khizr Khan, the Muslim father of a killed US soldier.

Trump has spent the days since the Democratic convention litigating whether their son is a hero, and on Tuesday only moved onto an equally unhelpful news cycle: whether he supports House Speaker Paul Ryan, and the 2008 presidential nominee, John McCain, in their primaries.

A knowledgeable Republican source told CNN that some of Trump's campaign staff -- even campaign manager Paul Manafort -- "feel like they are wasting their time," given Trump's recent comments. And two sources close to the Trump campaign said privately they wished Trump would apologize to the Gold Star family, even though the Khans attacked Trump from the stage at the Democratic National Convention last month.

One of those sources, who has spoken on Trump's behalf, said Trump should go further and apologize to "all military families."

Two Trump insiders said Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus has talked to Trump several times in recent days, conveying the dismay among senior party leaders and donors.

It has been relayed to Trump hat he is losing what tenuous support he has in the party establishment, and that already skeptical donors are heading for the exits or telling the senior team can't count on serious progress when he looks so toxic.

"(Manafort) has made clear no one can help him if no one believes he will do what it takes to win," said a senior trump aide.

Jason Miller, a Trump spokesman, disputed any signs of frustration within the campaign.

"The idea that Paul Manafort is mailing it in is completely erroneous. Our campaign just finished up our strongest month of fundraising to date, we're adding talented and experienced staffers on a daily basis and Mr. Trump's turning out bigger, more enthusiastic crowds than Hillary Clinton ever could," he said in a statement.

Yet a source close to the campaign stressed that despite Miller's statement, there are indeed tensions behind the scenes.

Another source close to the campaign expressed bewilderment over Trump's fight with Ryan, saying Trump should focus on issues that actually matter to people.

"I like Paul, but these are horrible times for our country," Trump told The Washington Post on Tuesday. "We need very strong leadership. We need very, very strong leadership. And I'm just not quite there yet. I'm not quite there yet."