May 24, 2024

Trump for President in 2012? Maybe. Trump for Trump? Without Question.

And when he talks about President Obama’s birth certificate, they really rise.

Proving cause and effect is impossible, of course. But the coincidence is not lost on Mr. Trump, a man who has erected a real estate and media empire on immodesty and indiscretion.

“Did you get the info I sent you?” Mr. Trump asked in a phone interview with The New York Times late last week. “I told the girls to send you the ratings.” He was referring to a 10-page packet of press releases with headlines like “Donald Trump Is Ratings Gold” and news articles from Politico and CNN that described his strength in recent polls. A day later, he re-sent the clips.

Depending on your perspective, Mr. Trump’s growing visibility on television and in political news stories over the last few weeks represents the opening phase of a political campaign or the metastasis of a media spectacle. Mr. Trump, who says he is absolutely serious about a run for president, has appeared regularly on Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, ABC and in a wide variety of political blogs. Media outlets that had expected the Republican presidential ticket to take on a fuller shape by now have found themselves with a news void, and in the absence of other news-making characters, many of them are filling it with Mr. Trump.

“Trump and the press have a symbiotic relationship, not unlike bees and flowers,” said William Grueskin, dean of academic affairs for the Columbia Journalism School. “At least in the natural world, you get honey out of it. Out of this campaign coverage, all you get are a lot of empty media moments about someone who is unlikely to run, more unlikely to be nominated, and utterly unlikely to win.”

Mr. Trump insists that he is not disingenuous about his presidential ambitions, even if others accuse him of pulling a publicity stunt. “I’m very serious,” he said. “I’m thinking very, very long and hard about it. I love what I’m doing. And I’m getting a tremendous amount of enjoyment out of running a really great company. My company is extraordinary. But the country is not extraordinary; it’s doing very poorly.”

Mr. Trump has said his announcement will come by June, which — coincidentally or not — is around the time “Celebrity Apprentice” wraps up its current season. A hint of his plans could come during the May 22 finale, he said in the interview last week. “I wouldn’t announce a decision,” he said, noting that NBC likely would not approve of politicking on its airwaves. “I may announce where the press conference will be,” he added.

Mr. Trump is walking a fine line with NBC. If he were to run, he would have to give up his “Apprentice” franchise, he said. There are no federal prohibitions on candidates being on a network payroll, although the Federal Election Commission does have rules cautioning against the use of air time to further a political campaign in some cases. Fox News, which had five potential Republican candidates on its payroll, recently suspended Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum as they signaled they were planning to run.

NBC officials declined to comment on Mr. Trump’s political aspirations.

Mr. Trump acknowledged that if he were to run, he would be walking away from a lucrative and successful business. “It’s a great franchise, and I’ve done a great job,” he said.

Ratings for the show are up this season over the same winter season last year, despite the fact that the “Apprentice” franchise is seven years old. On March 20, a few days after Mr. Trump appeared on “Good Morning America” and questioned whether Mr. Obama was born in the United States — an issue among some conservatives who harbor suspicions about the president’s heritage and religion — the show had an average of 8.2 million viewers, up from 8.1 million for the same episode last year.

But Mr. Trump received significantly more media attention after he knocked heads with the hosts of “The View” on March 23. The March 27 episode of “Celebrity Apprentice” had an average of 8.6 million viewers, up from 8.0 million for the same episode last year.

“I want him to show his birth certificate!” Mr. Trump said on “The View,” despite the fact that the president has indeed produced a certification of live birth showing he was born in Honolulu. “There’s something on that birth certificate that he doesn’t like,” Mr. Trump added, to sneers from the hosts. “Oh, that’s a terrible thing to say,” Barbara Walters chided him.

Mr. Trump has a history of simultaneously talking up his presidential ambitions while promoting various Trump-branded goods. The first time was in September 1987 when he announced plans for a trip to New Hampshire ahead of the 1988 presidential primaries. A local activist who said he had never met Mr. Trump started a “Draft Donald Trump” movement and invited him to speak to a Rotary Club luncheon.

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