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With the 2012 presidential election three years behind us, it’s easy to forget that billionaire real estate developer Donald Trump was briefly atop Republican polls before he decided against running.
His candidacy was met with skepticism back then as it was before he entered this year. But then, as now, he still drew massive crowds to his speeches and was near the top of the polls.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) was ahead of him, but then Huckabee decided against running, making Trump the clear front-runner.
He still ended up deciding against taking the plunge. As journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, who now host Bloomberg’s “With All Due Respect,” wrote in their book about the 2012 election, “Double Down: Game Change 2012,” Trump was hesitant about giving up his TV show, “The Celebrity Apprentice.”
Halperin and Heilemann wrote:
‘Am I the only guy in history at number one in the polls who got out?’ Trump asked himself. ‘Am I f—ing crazy?’ Then he thought again about what he’d be sacrificing to run, and about something that Melania once told him: he was already the biggest star in the world, bigger even than Tom Cruise.
‘Why would I do this?’ the Donald thought. ‘I already have an amazing life.’
In 2011, Jim Rutenberg wrote for The New York Times that before Trump could “figure out whether the White House was his golden ring, he was confronted with the pile of gold NBC was offering for a continued role in ‘Celebrity Apprentice.'”
NBC was announcing its fall television lineup in May 2011 and, with “The Celebrity Apprentice” as one of its most important shows, the network “would not be able to line up sponsorship commitments as easily with Mr. Trump as a ‘maybe,'” Rutenberg wrote.
Trump had a moment of doubt after Huckabee took himself out of the running, but ultimately he decided to stay with NBC and keep hosting his show.
This election cycle is different, though. NBC cut ties with Trump after he made “derogatory” comments about immigrants in his campaign-launch speech. Trump, for his part, has said NBC tried to get him to stick around to host the show. Either way, Trump is now running full-speed ahead toward 2016.
Establishment Republicans have blanched at the prospect of Trump winning the Republican nomination, but Trump says he’s serious about seeking the White House. Once again, he’s leading the polls, and he has occupied the top spot for more than three months. Media analyst Howard Kurtz wrote this week for Fox News that pundits are now coming to accept that Trump could feasibly become the Republican nominee for president.