Billionaire Donald Trump said this morning that “I would rather endorse somebody and have that somebody beat Barack Obama” than run for president, but he continued to refuse to rule out a third-party candidacy.
Appearing on NBC’s “Today” to promote his reality television show, “Celebrity Apprentice,” Trump told host Matt Lauer that he was not ready to end months of speculation about the possibility that he would make his own bid for the White House. That speculation gained momentum earlier this week when Trump said he has “his ducks in line” to mount a third-party run for the presidency if the GOP nominates the “wrong candidate.”
“When you look at the results last night, you’ve got Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum coming out with momentum. Is the right candidate in that group?” asked Lauer.
While Trump acknowledged that he was impressed with certain aspects of the top three vote-getters in the Iowa caucuses, he said he is still looking for one of the candidates to break away from the pack.
“Certainly Santorum, he never gave up, it was amazing. He was at, a few weeks ago, 1 percent and then all of a sudden he does so well,” Trump said. “Mitt Romney did great because he wasn’t expected to do very well in Iowa and he actually won it and he got 25 percent. He has to go higher. He has to start breaking that 25 percent level. He’s got to go up. He’s got to get into the 50s and 60s.”
Trump was less optimistic about third-place finisher Ron Paul. “I just don’t think that’s going to happen,” he said, adding that he would like to see more enthusiasm from one of the candidates.
“I’d like to see somebody break away from the pack. Nobody is breaking away from the pack. I mean you had three people that were almost the same. And you really have to get out there and break away. Ronald Reagan broke away from the pack.”
He declined to say whether he could support the candidacy of Santorum or Romney, saying that “I’m going to be making that statement over the next couple of weeks.”
Host Lauer pressed Trump to elaborate on the source of his presumed support. “We’ve known each other a long time so I’m going to be blunt with you. The only person I hear talking about a Donald Trump run for the presidency right now is Donald Trump. Who is urging you?”
Trump pointed to activists in Texas who filed paperwork to create the “Make America Great Again Party” for him to run as an independent -- as well as a dissatisfied electorate.
“There are millions of people that are tired of seeing this country ripped off by China, by OPEC, by every nation that does business, and I have a following of millions of people,” he said. “That’s why every one of these candidates that you’re talking about, they come up to Trump Tower. They want my endorsement. They don’t want my money. They want my endorsement because I represent millions of people.”
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