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The publicity he got from his political activism reached a fever pitch during his months-long, media-blitzed flirtation with running for president that seemed conveniently to dovetail with the spring 2011 season of his TV show.

That May, he announced he would not run. For some, it was the final scene of nothing more than political theatrics.

“They weren’t,” Mr. Trump says quietly. “I was very seriously considering running. It was a race that the Republicans should have won. I made a mistake in not running, because I think I would have won.”

He says he has no designs on this year’s race for mayor of New York. But his politicizing continues apace. In his Twitter feed, with 2 million followers, he continues to bash China and rant about Washington. He phones in to Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends” each Monday morning to vent his spleen.

“I believe in speaking my mind,” he says, “and I don’t mind controversy, as you probably noticed. I think sometimes controversy is a good thing, not a bad thing.”

Last summer saw the opening in Aberdeen, Scotland, of Trump International Golf Links after a bitter, yearslong fight waged by environmentalists and local residents against government leaders and, of course, Mr. Trump.

A man for whom it seems no publicity is bad publicity, Mr. Trump insists the controversy helped the project.

“If there wasn’t controversy surrounding it, I don’t think anybody would even know it exists,” he says, laying out the alternative: “I could take an ad: ‘Golf course opening.’”

Mr. Trump even seems to profit from the harsh attention focused on his hair.

“I get killed on my hair!” he says, with no trace of remorse. But he wants everyone to know, “It’s not a wig!” Nor is it an elaborately engineered coif to hide a hairline in retreat, as many Trump-watchers imagine.

To prove it, Trump does a remarkable thing: He lifts the flaxen locks that flop above his forehead to reveal, plain as day, a normal hairline.

“I wash my hair, I comb it, I set it, and I spray it,” he says. “That’s it. I could comb it back and I’d look OK. But I’ve combed it this way for my whole life. It’s become almost a trademark. And I think NBC would be very unhappy if I combed it back, ‘cause — you know what? — maybe I wouldn’t get as high a rating.”