The tipping point for Donald Trump came when Steve Burke, CEO of NBCUniversal, visited him in his office in New York and offered him $120 million to continue as the star of “The Celebrity Apprentice.”
The NBC offer was for two seasons at $60 million each.
Until then, Trump had been planning to announce his presidential run a few days after this season’s finale, which airs this coming Sunday, May 22.
“Apprentice” has been one of NBC's biggest hits this season, coming in number one for its Sunday prime time slot and second for all NBC shows, falling just behind “The Office.”
Until days before Burke’s offer, Trump had been meeting with conservative leaders to obtain their advice on such matters as pro-life issues. He had just completed a high-profile visit to Nashua, New Hampshire, speaking to a sold-out event and drawing national media attention.
But Trump announced on Monday that he was officially bowing out, citing his passion for managing his business empire and starring on “Apprentice”
Since then Trump’s office has received thousands of letters and emails urging him to reconsider.
The billionaire real estate mogul is said to have had many high-profile business leaders and others encouraging him to reconsider, drop his NBC plans and make the bid.
One group that might love such a surprise is the news media. The 2012 race has turned positively boring since Trump's announcement.
Liberal comic Jon Stewart of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” says the race for the president will be nowhere near as entertaining without “The Donald” in it. “I’ve waited my whole life for a presidential candidate like you,” he joked on his show. “Run, America needs you.”
Stewart appeared on Bill O'Reilly's Fox show this week and said he hasn't given up on the Donald, telling O’Reilly that he “prays” Trump still runs.
At one point during his flirtation with running, Trump was topping the list of potential Republican candidates. In an April Gallup poll, he was tied for first place with Mike Huckabee, with 16 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters favoring him for president. Mitt Romney came in at 13 percent. Sarah Palin came in fourth with support from 10 percent.
And a non-scientific online poll sponsored by Newsmax.com saw more than one million votes cast, with Trump taking 57 percent of the votes cast for potential GOP candidates. His closest competitor was Romney, with 9 percent of the vote.
Now that he's out of the race, could Trump make a comeback?
“Trump’s high name ID would allow him to return to the fray just as Ross Perot did in 1992,” Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, tells Newsmax. “Trump would be well served to find a signature economic issue—lower income taxes, deregulation, a balanced budget issue—to deflect the establishment press’ focus on his personal fame.”
Norquist is one of the country’s top conservative leaders. He holds a weekly off-the-record meeting of 150 conservative leaders to share intelligence and plot strategy.
Despite his decision not to run, Trump is still in high demand to speak at Republican events. He has struck a chord with Republicans and independents who relish his straight-talking approach to the economy and foreign affairs. He is said to be personally satisfied that he has made his points and has moved the conversation when it comes to Obama and his policies.
Candidate or not, Trump is likely to remain a force in Republican politics.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via e-mail. Go here now.
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