Reality TV star and real estate mogul Donald Trump put an end last night to a frenetic day of media speculation by endorsing front-runner Mitt Romney as his favored GOP presidential candidate ahead of Saturday’s caucus in Nevada.
Speaking at a packed news conference yesterday in his Las Vegas hotel, and flanked by Romney and his wife, Ann, Trump said: “Mitt is tough, he’s sharp, he’s smart. He’s not going to allow bad things to continue to happen to this country that we all love,” the Washington Post reported.
Romney responded that he was “honored and pleased” to have the business mogul’s backing, but hoped even more to win the endorsement of Nevada’s voters.
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Trump, who as recently as last month hinted that he might contest the presidential elections in November as an independent, told reporters he will not run if the former Massachusetts governor wins the GOP nomination, according to CNN.
The announcement capped off a bewildering day for US election-watchers, with Gingrich’s campaign team initially signalling to news outlets that the former House Speaker had secured Trump’s support.
Arriving in Las Vegas in the early hours of yesterday morning, Trump was frustratingly coy, offering no response to reporters’ questions regarding his impending endorsement other than “we’ll see tomorrow.”
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Romney is currently polling ahead of Gingrich in Nevada, having won the Republican caucuses there four years ago.
It is unclear whether Trump’s backing will have any effect on his chances inside and outside the Silver State, with a Pew survey last month concluding that it would make no difference to 64 percent of definite and likely GOP voters whether a candidate had Trump’s support, according to CNN.
A Fox News poll conducted last September yielded similar results, while polls dating back to Trump’s own flirtation with the GOP candidacy last spring displayed a sharp split between registered Republicans who were open to supporting him and those who ruled it out definitively, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Trump’s endorsement of Romney last night contrasted sharply with comments made during that same spring period. In an April interview with CNN, Trump lambasted Romney, dismissing him as a “small business guy” and suggesting that Bain Capital, the venture capital firm where Romney earned his fortune, had bankrupted firms and destroyed jobs:
“He’d buy companies, he’d close companies, he’d get rid of jobs,” Trump said.
For his part, Romney declined an invitation to participate in a December presidential debate in Iowa that Trump, having already attempted to play kingmaker by hosting major GOP hopefuls in his Manhattan base, had planned to moderate, the AP reported.
The event was subsequently cancelled. When asked yesterday by CNN what factors had led him to change his tune and ultimately back Romney, Trump said his past comments were merely “political talk.”
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