Trump: No, really, I'm serious about running for president this time

If a respected reporter like Robert Costa can see fit to take this seriously, so can a hack like yours truly.

I figured Trump wouldn’t enter the discussion until we nominated him and Romney at the inevitable brokered GOP convention.

In recent days, Trump has enlisted several strategists to advise him in three key states, retained an attorney to help him navigate federal election law and alerted GOP officials about his desire to seek the Republican nomination.

Trump said he has also declined to sign on for another season with the entertainment division of NBC, where he hosts “Celebrity Apprentice,” because of his political projects…

At a meeting Monday in New York with Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Trump said he was actively mulling a presidential run and acknowledged the necessity of formalizing his interest, according to people familiar with the conversation. Priebus, who will remain neutral in the 2016 primaries, took the meeting because of Trump’s status as a prominent donor to the RNC.

Coincidentally, he’s set to speak at CPAC two days from now, something that would have been overlooked as a curio by most righties if not for today’s quasi-announcement. As for him hiring advisors, I assume that’s just his way of twisting the media’s arms into covering him. He claimed he was “serious” about running last time too and, as everyone expected, ended up passing. That raised the bar for this cycle. If he didn’t give reporters like Costa concrete evidence that he might really do it, they’d ignore him entirely. So here you go. Concrete evidence, sort of. If he can hang around the margins of the race as a will-he-won’t-he X factor for long enough, maybe he can land another awkward “stay on my good side” photo op with the eventual GOP nominee.

According to two recent polls, his favorable rating among Republicans in Iowa is 26/68. Among Republicans in New Hampshire, it’s 19/69. That’s reason enough to doubt he’s running. The longstanding theory about his reluctance is that Trump doesn’t want to have to disclose his financial holdings, but a better reason is that a guy who presents himself as a consummate winner and master of the universe simply couldn’t endure the embarrassment of finishing as an also-ran. Can you imagine him spending, say, $50 million to package himself as “a political outsider with a coalition of disaffected conservatives,” as Costa puts it, and then finishing 10 points behind Ben Carson in Iowa? C’mon.

Still, fun to speculate on what a Trump candidacy would do to a field that’s already overcrowded and chaotic. No one’s abandoning a viable candidate like Scott Walker for him; he’d probably end up cannibalizing some of Carson’s support and maybe even Ted Cruz’s, as Trump would move to build credibility quickly with the right by lobbing heavy rhetorical bombs at the left. Some tea partiers who don’t follow politics closely enough day to day to have a strong opinion about Cruz might be attracted to that. If so, it’s grassroots righties who stand to lose the most potentially from Trump jumping in, not centrists like Jeb Bush.

But enough of all that. More important than the Trump news today is this interview with Spencer Zwick, Mitt Romney’s right-hand man and a guy who’s expected to eventually jump to Jeb Bush now that Bush is the de facto establishment nominee. Not so fast, though: Zwick seems awfully high on Marco Rubio, which could mean that Romney (who called for a new generation of Republican leadership in his “I’m not running” announcement) could also be high on him. And with Romney’s donor network behind him, Rubio would suddenly be a real threat to Jeb. Hmmmm. Stay tuned.

Update: Here’s a fun topic for the GOP primary campaign.