ABC News' Rick Klein reports:
Former Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele used the White House Correspondents' Association dinner to chat with Donald Trump – and left with the impression that "in his heart he is serious" about running for president.
"I sense that there's this seriousness about it," Steele told us on ABC's "Top Line" today. "Now his approach has certainly caused a lot of controversy -- it is different. As I said before and I believe it still is the case, you're going to have to get out here and start talking substantively about the issues -- the birther issue is not a serious political issue right now and I don't think it really was. …
"Donald now has an opportunity to move beyond that and to really lay down his bona fides with respect to where he wants to take the country, particularly on domestic issues."
And Steele had a message to Republicans who are complaining that Trump is consuming too much political oxygen inside the GOP.
"You want to be president, get out there and stake your claim -- make your mark. If you want to let Donald Trump take all the oxygen out of the room, then that's on the guys and gals who let him do that. You can't blame Donald Trump, because he's figured out a way to keep himself in the forefront of the discussion, regardless of what you think of that discussion."
"Those in the establishment who sit back and moan and groan about Donald Trump and are worried about the impact he's going to have -- I'd be less worried about that and more concerned about the fact no one else has stepped up to challenge him, to push back, and to stake their claim."
"Right now the Republican candidates for the nomination are not getting the traction they need to to go up against the president of the United States, an incumbent president of the United States who is a formidable campaigner, who's a heck of a fundraiser, and who has the wind of the economy and now some international success in his sails."
"So this whining and gnashing of teeth about Donald Trump to me is misplaced. If you're prepared to go into this fight -- and it will be a fight -- then start now, lay your claim, take your turf as much as you can to distinguish yourself from your opponents as well as the president of the United States."
Watch the "Top Line" segment with Michael Steele HERE.
And check out our interview on the red carpet Saturday with Trump HERE.