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Trump Stirs Interest as US Presidential Contender

Real estate developer Donald Trump, left, and George Ramishvili, Chairman of Silk Road Group, talk following a news conference in New York, March 10, 2011
Real estate developer Donald Trump, left, and George Ramishvili, Chairman of Silk Road Group, talk following a news conference in New York, March 10, 2011

In U.S. politics, recent public opinion polls show New York real estate mogul Donald Trump is surging into contention among Republicans looking for a presidential candidate for next year’s election. Trump said he will decide on a presidential bid by June, but the possibility of a Trump candidacy is exciting some Republicans who find the current crop of potential candidates lacking.

Trump has two things other Republican presidential candidates would love to have, money and name recognition.

Trump says his real estate business in New York is worth billions of dollars and his highly rated television show, The Apprentice, has made him a celebrity.

Now, Trump is creating headlines because he is considering a run for president next year, and some recent polls show him surging. Several have shown him near the top of the as-yet-unannounced Republican field. One survey done by Public Policy Polling had Trump in the lead, followed by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Trump has been doing a round of interviews with U.S. television networks and told NBC’s Today program that much of what is wrong with the U.S. economy at the moment, including the high cost of gasoline, can be traced overseas.

"The world is just destroying our country. These other countries are just sapping our strength. OPEC is sapping our strength. Let the other countries worry about themselves," said Trump.

Trump also has been critical of U.S. trade deals with several countries and said he would take a tougher line with China, which he singles out as the top U.S. economic rival.

"I would say we are going to put a 25 percent tax on all your products coming in and that is going to do a number of things. Number one, as soon as they believe it is going to happen, they will behave so nicely because it is going to destroy their economy."

Political experts believe Trump also is surging among conservatives because he questions the legitimacy of President Barack Obama’s birth certificate, which was issued by the state of Hawaii in 1961.

Trump said he has private investigators looking at the birth certificate issue in Hawaii, even though state officials have confirmed the authenticity of the documents in question, and despite the fact that two local newspapers printed birth announcements within days of Obama’s birthday.

Some Republicans have criticized Trump’s focus on the Obama birth issue and argued it is a distraction from the daunting economic problems facing the country.

Trump’s flirtation with a candidacy also is drawing attention away from lesser-known Republicans who may launch a campaign this year, including former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour.

In addition, Trump may be gaining ground because many Republicans appear unenthusiastic about the field of potential candidates considering a run next year. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll found only 43 percent of Republican voters satisfied with the current choice of possible contenders, well down from this point in the 2008 election cycle.

But the same poll also had troubling news for Obama. Only 47 percent of those surveyed approve of the job the president is doing at the moment, and 57 percent disapprove of the way he is handling the domestic economy.

Presidential incumbents generally have the advantage when seeking re-election. Analysts say that a weak national economy, however, could lead to a close presidential race next year if the Republicans can settle on a candidate who can unite conservatives and still appeal to centrist voters.

John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington was a guest on VOA’s Encounter program. He made this observation: "If the election were held soon and you had a competent Republican candidate, I think you would say 'well, I think it is going to be an awfully close election and it is really hard to know.'  Incumbent presidents have some advantages, but I don’t think it would be an easy call to figure out which party would win."

Since World War II, only two elected U.S. presidents have been defeated for re-election, Jimmy Carter in 1980 and George H.W. Bush in 1992. In both cases, voter concern about the economy was a major factor.

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