NEW YORK — Caving to intense Republican lobbying, presidential candidate Donald Trump ruled out the prospect of a third-party White House bid Thursday and vowed to support whoever wins the party’s nomination – a U-turn made easier by his position at the front of the field.

The decision follows weeks of behind-the-scenes efforts by Republican leaders, who’ve been trying to avert the possibility of an independent campaign by Trump ever since last month’s opening debate, when he refused to promise to back the party’s eventual nominee. A third-party bid by Trump, or any prominent conservative, could doom Republican efforts in 2016.

“I will be totally pledging my allegiance to the Republican Party and the conservative principles for which it stands,” Trump said in a news conference at Trump Tower.

The 69-year-old billionaire, who announced his decision after meeting with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, insisted he got “absolutely nothing” for pledging his loyalty “other than the assurance that I’ll be treated fairly.”

In a statement Thursday night, Priebus didn’t mention Trump by name but declared his pride in having all major Republican candidates pledging to support the eventual nominee, and then took a swipe at the Democratic front-runner. “We have the largest, most diverse field in the history of either party,” he said. “Any candidate would be a better president than Hillary Clinton and offer the new direction Americans want.”

To the dismay of Republican leaders, Trump has emerged as the overwhelming favorite in a crowded field, despite repeatedly insulting key constituencies and offering few details about his policies. The reality television star has described Mexican immigrants as rapists, questioned Sen. John McCain’s war hero status and insulted a popular Fox News host.

The document Trump signed Thursday is a pledge, not a contract. Even if it were legally binding, Trump’s history in contract law is suspect.

When lender Boston Safe Deposit & Trust refused to extend the mortgage on his Palm Beach resort, Mar-a-Lago, he ceased making loan payments until the bank capitulated in 1992.

On Thursday, Trump insisted he would make good on his commitment to Republicans.

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