Real estate mogul and TV personality Donald Trump says he’ll announce whether he is running for president after the May 22 final installment of his hit show "The Celebrity Apprentice," but in the meantime, it’s all about location, location, location – and that location for Trump is Iowa.
"Iowa is very, very important to me," he tells The Des Moines Register. "I love what Iowa represents. It represents to me a work ethic that a lot of other places don't have. And I think I'll do well in Iowa because, you know, my ethic is very much like the people of Iowa."
Iowa, which has the first contest in the race for the 2012 nomination – the caucuses are scheduled for Feb. 6 – is a subject from which the volatile Trump does not shy.
"I will meet many, many people, maybe all of the people" in Iowa, Trump told The Register last month. "If I decide to run, I will be shaking hands with everybody.”
More than just a grip-and-grin opportunity, however, Trump is on record saying that he knows he must convince Iowans that he is a serious contender — with more to offer than doubts about the birthplace of President Barack Obama.
According to The Register, he is chaffing to pound away on his opposition to the federal health care reform law, to same-sex marriage and to abortion except under limited circumstances, and that he has an agenda to kick-start the economy.
He tells the paper that his mindset has evolved over his lifetime: "I'm a very conservative person — extremely conservative."
Trump is more than just talk, however. He has developed a special affinity for and involvement with the town of Newton, Iowa, where many wage earners lost their livelihoods in 2007 when Whirlpool Corp. bought Maytag and closed the local appliance factory.
Trump actually dispensed cash to aid some of the most-hurting residents. "That whole Maytag situation, it's a disgrace," he told the Register.
But can a guy who seems more celebrity than politician prevail in Iowa? Pat Robertson of "700 Club" fame managed to sweep up 24.6 percent support in 1988 — behind Bob Dole's winning 37.4 percent. Meanwhile, Steve Forbes of Forbes magazine and megabucks fame also captured second in 2000 with 30.5 percent. George W. Bush picked-up 41 percent that year.
Both The Register and the Associated Press have reported that Trump does indeed have to overcome a good measure of skepticism among the party leaders in the Iowa counties that churned out the most Republican caucus-goers in 2008.
"The consensus is, he's a little on the joke side," Cory Adams, 34, chairman of the Story County Republicans, told The Register after a recent meeting with 30 Republicans.
"I don't think he's prepared at all for what it means to run in the caucuses in Iowa," said Sac County Republican Chairwoman Ann Trimble-Ray, a consultant to Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King and a leading party activist, according to the Associated Press. "I think that's going to shock the socks off this guy."
Also according to an AP report, Steve Scheffler, a Republican National Committeeman from West Des Moines, said Trump would attract attention. "But he, like every other candidate is going to have to be willing and able to answer tough questions."
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