Donald Trump has long resisted calls for him to run for president. But now, at age 67, he tells me he’s considering a bid.
“I’m looking,” Trump says. “I have a large following of people who are tired of seeing this country ripped off, and taken advantage of [by] everyone who does business with us. We used to be the smart one of the block, and now we’re the dummies on the block. They want to see me, and I want to see them.”
Trump cautions that it’s early. But for the first time in his life, he’s preparing to potentially put his business work on hold. Behind the scenes, he’s examining how his family could manage his operations on an interim basis, should he decide to run.
“From a business standpoint, I have fabulous children who I’ve taken into the business,” Trump explains. “They know what they’re doing. So the business wouldn’t be the thing that stops me.”
That’s a big change from two years ago, when Trump was riding high in the Republican presidential primary polls. Looking back, he says it was his corporate and television work that stopped him from jumping in; he wasn’t ready to take a leave of absence.
This time around, Trump’s mulling process is slower and more deliberative. The real estate mogul says he has already put $1 million toward researching how he could win the nomination.
“It’s very difficult for me to make a commitment, with The Apprentice and so many things,” Trump says. “It’s harder for me than some politician who says, ‘I guess I’ll run.’ So that’s the thing I have to keep looking at. I want to watch what happens with the 2014 elections, and then make a final decision after those elections.”
In early August, Trump will travel to Ames, Iowa, the home of the Iowa Republican straw poll, where he’ll speak at an evangelical gathering hosted by Bob Vander Plaats, an influential power broker in the Iowa politics. Beyond Iowa, he has recently spoken to conservative groups in Michigan and Washington, D.C.
“I’m a Presbyterian, and pro-life and for traditional marriage,” he says. “Bob is a good friend, and I’ve always had a connection with the evangelicals. I’m very friendly with many of the ministers and pastors, and I’ve had a great relationship with the group.”
As he considers a path, Trump believes he could occupy a unique space in the GOP field — a tough, pro-growth conservative who focuses on U.S. trade policy and jobs.
“When I see China ripping this country, when I see OPEC ripping this country, when I see other nations laughing at us because we’re being too stupidly and foolishly led, it’s infuriating,” Trump says. “People don’t like to see that happening to our country, but that’s what happening. We’re not making things anymore, the jobs are outside of the country, people recognize that, which is why I have a very, very big base.”
“I really don’t think it’s a popularity contest; I think they like what I’m saying,” he adds. “We’ll see what happens. People want to see this nation be great again, and I think it’s an important part of what I’m all about.”
The one and only.