- The Washington Times - Monday, February 14, 2000

New York tycoon Donald Trump has decided against running for president, ending a lengthy flirtation with the notion that he could tap his personal fortune to capture the White House as a third-party candidate, the Associated Press learned.

Sources connected with New York's Independence Party movement, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Mr. Trump has told associates he will announce today that he is not mounting a presidential bid.

His decision leaves former Republican Pat Buchanan as the front-runner candidate for the Reform Party's nomination. Mr. Buchanan left the Republicans after two failed presidential bids, eyeing the nearly $13 million in federal money that will be awarded Reform's nominee.

After months of speculation about a possible Reform Party campaign, Mr. Trump decided recently that the party is too fractured to support a credible presidential candidate, the officials said. The Reform Party operates in New York under the Independence Party banner.

He met over the weekend with advisers to consider a second option, running as an Independence Party candidate, but determined there is not enough time to get on state ballots. Mr. Trump considered that option out of respect for Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, who had been the Reform Party's highest elected official before leaving the "dysfunctional" party last week to reinvigorate his state's Independence Party.

Mr. Ventura and Mr. Trump were allies during Reform Party squabbling that culminated Friday with the governor's departure and the ouster of a Ventura ally as party chairman Saturday.

The fractious party meeting in Tennessee returned power to allies of party founder Ross Perot, who has not ruled out running for president a third time.

Though he had not formally entered the race, Mr. Trump made a handful of campaign trips, hinted broadly for weeks that he would run and issued comprehensive health care and national debt-reduction proposals. He held a single-digit ranking in most public polls, and was not given much of a chance of winning the presidency.

Mr. Trump estimates his personal net worth at $5 billion. Though independent analysis lead to lower estimates, there is no doubt he was wealthy enough to make inroads toward the Reform Party nomination.

Many Perot allies encouraged Mr. Buchanan to bolt the GOP and join the Reform Party, in part because they hoped the conservative firebrand could help defy Mr. Ventura's wing of the party. With Mr. Ventura out of the way, Mr. Perot's allies are now speculating that the wealthy Texas businessman could seek the nomination himself.

Mr. Perot has not confirmed or denied the speculation.

Steve Forbes, another multimillionaire dabbling in politics, last week became the seventh GOP candidate to pull out of the race. Vice President Al Gore and former New Jersey senator Bill Bradley are the sole Democratic combatants.

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