The wait is over—Donald Trump will not be running for president after all.
“After considerable deliberation and reflection, I have decided not to pursue the office of the presidency,” the real estate mogul-turned-reality TV star said in a statement released by his political director, Michael Cohen.
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“This decision does not come easily or without regret; especially when my potential candidacy continues to be validated by ranking at the top of the Republican contenders in polls across the country,” Trump continued. “I maintain the strong conviction that if I were to run, I would be able to win the primary and ultimately, the general election.”
Trump has been whetting media intrigue over a possible White House bid for months, though most analysts speculated that it was purely ratings-motivated. (The season finale of Trump’s show Celebrity Apprentice is this Sunday, and was just picked up on Monday by NBC for renewal.) Furthermore, in a Quinnipiac University poll conducted earlier this month, 58 percent of respondents said they would never vote for Trump.
Still, the brassy agent for American exceptionalism has topped several other polls along the way and forced the White House to respond to his demands for President Obama’s long-form birth certificate—a campaign theme some Republicans criticized as making a joke of the party’s agenda.
Even so, Trump signalled that he isn't done with presidential politics. “I look forward to supporting the candidate who is the most qualified to help us tackle our country’s most important issues and am hopeful that, when this person emerges, he or she will have the courage to take on the challenges of the office and be the agent of change that this country so desperately needs,” he said at the conclusion of his statement.
With social conservative favorite Mike Huckabee bowing out of the race on Saturday, the GOP field remains in flux. Candidates who have either declared their intentions to run or who have established exploratory campaign committees: Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Rick Santorum, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, Herman Cain, Gary Johnson, and Buddy Roemer. Still mulling: Rudy Giuliani, Sarah Palin, and Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. All are expected to announce within the next few months.
Despite all the hype surrounding Trump's flirtation with a White House bid, the after effects of his announcement are relatively minimal. In contrast with the reaction prompted on Saturday by Huckabee’s decision, when other Republican hopefuls—including Trump—raced to issue statements in praise of the former Arkansas governor, Trump's announcement was met with deafening silence from the rest of the presidential field.
In Huckabee's case, Republican candidates are lining up to get the endorsement of a proven vote-getter whose evangelical constituency is particularly valuable in a GOP primary. To the extent that Trump has a constituency, it is the so-called "birthers," not a group that many Republicans want to court openly.
"I think his endorsement could backfire," said Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak. "The upside is he will now be unable to continue damaging the Republican brand with independents. His decision not to run makes the campaign more serious, which is all to the good."
Levi Russell, a spokesman for the Tea Party Express political action committee, suggested that candidates would rather avoid a loose cannon. “My guess is that Trump's unpredictability … makes [candidates] a little nervous,” he said.
Another tea party activist expressed regret over The Donald's decision. Everett Wilkinson, who as chair of the South Florida Tea Party hosted Trump as a keynote speaker of a tax day rally that he said “drew over 5,000 people”, thanked the celebrity businessman in a statement. "His voice is the one that most resonated with Americans because he understands what Americans are facing,” he said.
And at least one GOP leader professed indifference. “It’s his choice,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. “It’s another day of putting the field together and making sure Barack Obama is a one-term president.”
Alex Roarty contributed.