New York real estate developer Donald Trump says he has decided “in my mind” to run for president, yet won’t make an official announcement before the season finale of his reality television show later this month.
“In my mind, I have already decided,” Trump, 64, said in a telephone interview today. “I am going to announce. But I can’t do anything until the show ends.”
Trump said he will focus on “making our country rich and respected,” by creating jobs, boosting the economy and stopping China and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries from taking advantage of the U.S.
“The OPEC nations will be acting much differently, and fuel prices will go down and the economy will become strong again,” Trump said. “They may like me or not like me, but nobody will be ripping us off.”
Some recent polls have shown Trump at or near the top of a large field of potential Republican candidates. In an April 26 Rasmussen Reports poll, Trump led with support from 19 percent of 1,000 likely Republican primary voters nationwide. The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus three percentage points.
A Gallup Poll conducted April 15-20 showed Trump tied with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee at 16 percent, atop a list of 15 possible candidates. Gallup questioned 1,047 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. The poll had an error margin of plus or minus four percentage points.
Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain, , speaking on network talk shows earlier in the day, said Trump has been stealing attention from campaign issues and candidates with his focus on President Barack Obama’s birth certificate and school grades.
Trump, whose NBC reality television show, “Celebrity Apprentice” ends its season on May 22, has questioned whether Obama was born in the U.S. and whether he was eligible to be president. He’s also questioned the president’s school grades, suggesting Obama may have gotten special treatment to gain admission to colleges, including Harvard Law School, where he graduated magna cum laude.
Obama on April 27 released a long form of his birth certificate showing he was born in Honolulu. Obama said it was time to stop being “distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers” in remarks to reporters about the document.
Trump said in the interview he was “proud” of prompting the president to issue the birth certificate, reiterating comments he made in a press conference last week.
“There’s a lot of things Mister Trump can be proud of, but some of this rhetoric and this focusing on the president’s birth, I do not think is the way for us to win the White House,” Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said on “Fox News Sunday.”
McCain, an Arizona Republican, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program that he didn’t think Trump would become the new face of the Republican party.
“We have very serious candidates, and I think that if Mister Trump wants to run, he’s welcome to run,” McCain said. The senator said the U.S. needs a “national conversation” about issues such as the debt limit and unemployment, and not a debate on Obama’s college transcripts. “All of this is so unnecessary.”
Referring to reports that Trump used salty language in an April 28 speech in Las Vegas, Graham said that “most Americans don’t want their president to go around saying the f-word.” While Trump “has a lot to offer,” Graham said the developer “will have a tough sale in South Carolina.”
Trump is scheduled to speak in June at a Republican fundraising event in Iowa, site of the first 2012 presidential nominating caucuses.
President Obama ribbed Trump about the birth certificate episode in remarks at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in Washington last night.
“No one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than ‘the Donald,’” Obama said.
Joking about what kind of change Trump might bring to the White House, Obama showed a big-screen image of the “Trump White House Resort and Casino,” with a pink neon sign, girls, cocktails and Jacuzzis on the lawn.
Seth Meyers, a cast member on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” gave the dinner’s keynote speech and addressed Trump’s potential candidacy.
“Donald Trump often talks about running as a Republican, which is surprising,” Meyers said. “I just assumed he was running as a joke.”
Trump said he was “honored” by the amount of time dedicated to him during the dinner. “I knew I was going into the lion’s den,” he said in the interview. “I’m the last person they want to run against.”
Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Texas Representative Ron Paul have said they are exploring presidential bids.
Potential Republican candidates also include former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia; Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana; and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who stepped down last month as U.S. ambassador to China.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who won office last year with support from Tea Party backers, said today on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he won’t “under any circumstances” be part of a Republican presidential ticket in 2012.
--With assistance from Kate Andersen Brower and Timothy Homan in Washington. Editors: Ann Hughey, Bob Drummond
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