What would happen if Donald Trump decided to drop out of the race?

ABC News is reporting Wednesday, that "senior GOP officials" are exploring their options should Donald Trump decide to drop out of the race for president.

Trump's campaign surrogates have laughed off the talk, saying the campaign is moving ahead and looking forward to the battle against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Trump himself tweeted a shoutout to his staff on Wednesday, seemingly in response to rumors of discord in his camp.

Some pundits have speculated about the campaign's future after Trump told The New York Times he would "let you know how I feel after it happens," when asked if he would decline to serve as president should he win the election in November.

He was asked the question after rumors spread in June that he had little interest in serving as president, only in winning the election.

It’s been a tough few days for Donald Trump's campaign – with members of his own party calling some of his comments into question.

From his continued sparring with the parents of an Army captain killed in Iraq, to the suggestion that the November general election is already rigged, to calling out a crying baby at a campaign rally, Trump has been the focus of nearly every media outlet and both conservative and liberal social media sites.

>> Got a question about the news? See our explainers here


Adding some fuel to that fire was Trump’s comments  on Tuesday that he was withholding his endorsements of U.S. Speaker of the House, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), and Arizona Sen. John McCain.

President Obama on Tuesday, during a nationally televised news conference, said that Trump has proven himself “unfit” for the office. He called on Republicans to stop backing the New York billionaire.

Many of Trump’s comments that seem genuine when said have been tongue-in-cheek, he insists, leading the candidate to slam the media for blowing them out of proportion.

If he is at all considering the option of not serving if elected, or, as an article in Vanity Fair suggested, quitting the race before the election, it raises an interesting question about what happens if a major party's nominee is not there come Jan. 20, 2017 when the oath of office is to be taken.

What would happen if he decided to quit?

Here’s what would happen if Trump dropped out before the election.

The Republican National Committee rules address what would happen should their nominee decide not to or be unable to make it to the General Election on Nov. 8. The issues is addressed in to Rule 9 – Filling Vacancies in Nominations.”

There are two things that can happen:

1. The Party Chair calls a meeting of the National Committee, and the 168-member committee members would vote to fill the vacancy on the ticket. (A candidate must receive a majority of the votes to win the party's nomination.)

2.  The RNC can reconvene the national convention “for the purpose of filling any such vacancies.”

Adding to that pressure, Trump would have to opt out of the race by early September for someone else to be on the ballot in enough states to win.

What  would happen if a nominee won the election but withdrew before the Electoral College vote?

Again, choosing a nominee is the purview of the respective party. If one of the two people elected as president and vice president during the general election drops off the ticket, it’s the party's responsibility to fill the vacancy.

Here’s what would happen if the person elected president decided not to take the oath after winning the election.

It would certainly be history since no president-elect has failed to be sworn in. The 20th Amendment to the Constitution addresses only the question of what happens should a president-elect die before taking office, presumably because they never considered that anyone would decline to take the office after they had won the election.

The amendment says that if the president-elect has died before being  sworn in, then the vice-president-elect becomes president. It also says that if a presidential candidate does not qualify for the job, then the vice president-elect will serve until a qualified candidate is found.

The question is addressed in Section 3 of the amendment:

“If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President-elect shall have died, the Vice President elect shall become President. If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President-elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified; and the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President elect shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified.”

*Note: Late Wednesday afternoon, officials in the Republican National Committee denied reports that the party is looking into how to replace Donald Trump in case he drops out of the race. Click here to read the story from The Hill.