- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Billionaire Donald Trump, in the midst of a media blitz promoting his latest book, said the Republican Party needs to pick an electable presidential candidate - and if it doesn’t, look for an independent Trump run in 2012.

“If [Republicans] choose the wrong candidate, I probably will run as an independent,” the New York real estate magnate and reality TV star said Wednesday.

“If they choose the right candidate, I’ll be very happy because I enjoy my life. I’m having a good time doing what I do,” he said on The Washington Times-affiliated “America’s Morning News” radio program.

Mr. Trump acknowledged that if he ran as a third-party candidate, he likely would take more votes from the Republican candidate than from President Obama.

“It depends on who the Republican is. I do think the Republicans would be hurt more than the Democrats. If I ran, I think I’d get a lot of Obama supporters or previous Obama supporters,” he said. “I think the Republican would not win. But I might.”

Mr. Trump, who flirted with entering the Republican presidential race this year, is promoting his new book, “Time to Get Tough: Making America #1 Again.”

The star of NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice” didn’t elaborate on whom in the Republican field he considers the “right” pick, but he did praise former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the Republican front-runner, for agreeing to appear at a debate that Mr. Trump planned to help moderate Dec. 27 in Iowa. The debate has been canceled.

Mr. Trump on Tuesday bowed out of the debate after Republican strategists warned that the attention and scrutiny that follows the reality TV show star would reflect poorly on the party’s contenders. The billionaire said the decision by most of the candidates to skip the Trump debate - only Mr. Gingrich and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania agreed to participate - was itself an indictment of the field.

“Michele Bachmann is losing badly. Many of these candidates are losing badly. What do they have to lose? It’s not like, ‘Oh, gee, we’re going to blow it.’ It’s over. It really amazed me,” he said. “Unfortunately that’s the kind of thinking we have going.”

He praised Mr. Gingrich, but stopped short of endorsing the Georgia Republican as the GOP’s “right” candidate.

“He’s looking at beating Obama. And we would have had, you know, I do very well with the ratings. He knew it would have had a tremendous audience,” Mr. Trump said.

The billionaire said it was important for the Republican Party to pick an electable candidate because the country, he said, is on the wrong track under Mr. Obama.

“I’m going to be giving an endorsement at the appropriate time,” he said.