Donald Trump Still Flirting with a 3rd Party Run?

That’s what the business tycoon told me yesterday when we sat down at Trump Towers. But there are a few conditions that need to be met in order for him to make a 2012 bid.

“If the economy continues to be bad, which I think it will because we have incompetent leadership, and if the Republicans pick the wrong candidate, which they may, I won't know that for a little while, I will absolutely consider being a candidate,” Donald Trump said.

We’ve been down this road before, of course. And it sure doesn’t seem like Trump will actually jump in this time. But, with a twinkle in his eye, Trump insists this is not a game.

“I've been treated unfairly in that regard,” he said. “I thought about it years ago one time, not two times, one time, very briefly, like for a few days, got a little publicity, and I decided I wasn't going to do it. Then recently I seriously, very seriously thought about it for a period of three months.”

2012 may offer the best opening in memory for a 3rd party bid. Approval ratings for both parties are in the tank. A recent Democracy Corps poll showed that more than half the country is willing to consider voting for an independent candidate. But the potential candidate who’s studied the playing field more closely than anyone – Mayor Mike Bloomberg – told me last week that an outside contender cannot win because the “deck is stacked for one of the two major Party candidates.”

Trump disagrees.

“I think it would be difficult to win. But the way the system is right now with the Republicans, everybody hates them, with the Democrats, everybody hates them, with a president who's doing a horrible job and his ratings are very low, I feel that an Independent candidate could actually win,” Trump said.

“If the right person ran, like Trump, if the right person ran, I believe that candidate could win,” he said. That twinkle again.

Even though he almost certainly won’t run, Trump is relishing his role in the process (nearly all the GOP candidates check in with him from time to time). The website Should Trump Run continues to grow. And he’ll continue to speak out against Obama.

Trump even revisited the “birther” controversy that had us going at it in the spring. Trump is still not backing down.

“I am very proud of it. I made him do something that nobody else was able to make him do,” Trump said about Obama releasing his birth certificate.

Trump told me there is still a lot of skepticism about the birth certificate the president produced. When I asked him if he shares that skepticism he said he’s moved onto to other topics like jobs and China.

But then this:

“But it was sort of strange that all of a sudden, for years and years he wouldn't produce it. Then all of a sudden when I put all that heat on him, he finally, begrudgingly, he produced something…I don't know what he produced. But he produced something,” he said.

Old habits die hard.

-- George Stephanopoulos

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