NEW YORK — Donald Trump is finally taking the plunge. The real estate mogul and TV reality star launched his presidential campaign Tuesday, ending more than two decades of persistent flirtation with the idea of running for the Oval Office.
“So, ladies and gentlemen, I am officially running for president of the United States, and we are going to make our country great again,” Trump told the crowd, in a lengthy and meandering speech that hit on his signature issues like currency manipulation from China and job creation, as well as taking shots at the president and his competitors on the Republican side.
“Sadly the American dream is dead,” Trump said at the end of his speech, promising to bring it back to life with his run.
Just over four years after he came closer than ever to launching a campaign before bowing out, Trump made his announcement at the lavish Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York, laying out a vision to match his incoming campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
The 68-story tower venue Trump used Tuesday is more than just the backdrop to Trump’s presidential announcement, instead becoming a physical embodiment of what Trump is bringing to the table and the challenges he’ll face as he formally enters politics.
Trump has already billed himself as the “most successful person ever to run for the presidency, by far,” pointing out even that he owns a “Gucci store that’s worth more than Romney.”
That Gucci store won’t be far as Trump makes his announcement — it’s located in the lobby of the Trump Tower.
But Trump isn’t likely to try and shy away from the out-of-reach luxury and opulence that makes up his day-to-day lifestyle.
Instead, he’ll flaunt his wealth and success in business as a centerpiece of his presidential platform. And on Tuesday he will disclose his financial assets, trumpeting a whopping $9 billion net worth, according to the Washington Post. Trump’s net worth was previously estimated at roughly $4 billion.
The Trump Tower certainly won’t disappoint in embodying that astronomical financial success, but the structure that was also home to the famous boardroom featured in “The Apprentice” television shows will also crystallize the challenge Trump faces as he looks to win over voters.
Many Americans now view him primarily as a reality TV star after 14 seasons of his “Apprentice” series, and his numerous flirtations with a presidential run — first in 1987, then 1999 and again in 2004 and most recently in 2011 — have left voters eye-rolling as he prompted yet another round of will-he or won’t-he speculation.
He and his aides remain confident, though, that voters will take Trump seriously after he has now made his intentions clear and announces he’s running.
“We can change that dynamic in 15 seconds by Mr. Trump sending out a press release saying he’s running for president,” Trump’s top political adviser Corey Lewandowski said. “Mr. Trump’s single biggest detriment is that people don’t think he’s going to run.”
But over the past several months, Trump has ramped up his political activity, making key staff hires in the early states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — including the political strategist who drove former Sen. Rick Santorum to a surprise victory in the Iowa caucus in 2012.
And even as he becomes the 12th candidate to throw his hat into a ring that will become even more crowded before the first televised debate in August, Trump could find himself grinning on Fox News along with the rest of the top 10 candidates who made the cut.
Fox is limiting participation in the first debate to the top 10 GOP contenders based on national polling, and Trump is just on the edge based on the latest polls.
He tied for 10th place with 3% in the latest CNN/ORC poll earlier this month and earned 4% in both the most recent Fox News and Washington Post/ABC News polls — coming in 10th and tied for ninth, respectively.
That puts Trump right in line with would-be-rivals like Santorum, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former New York Gov. George Pataki — and above hopefuls like Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Trump will look to escape that grouping as he challenges conventional political notions of nominating a presidential candidate who’s held elected office, instead calling for an end to the politics he says are heavy on talk and light on action.
Trump is no stranger to either, though.
He famously fanned the flames of the “birther” movement and today takes credit for President Barack Obama’s decision to release his birth certificate — which Trump said this year at CPAC hasn’t completely quelled his concerns.
And he won’t mince words when it comes to his GOP foes, either. And he may take the opportunity to draw a contrast with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who formally announced his candidacy just a day before Trump’s announcement.
Trump said earlier this year in Iowa: “The last thing we need is another Bush.”