Not until he actually utters the words “I’m running” will I believe that he’s running, but admittedly this is the closest he’s ever been.

I wonder which credible candidate will end up sitting home alone on the couch eating ice cream during the first debate because he ended up being out-polled, purely by dint of name recognition, by this guy. Will it be the two-term governor of Louisiana? The two-term governor of New Jersey? Or the two-term governor of Ohio?

NH1 News confirmed Thursday that the real estate mogul and reality TV star will make an announcement on June 16 at Trump Tower in New York City. The very next day, Trump plans to return to New Hampshire, home to the first primary in the race for the White House.

A source close to Trump confirmed the June 16 and 17 dates and termed the announcement as “major” but did not confirm outright that Trump would actually announce his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination…

While Trump’s flirted with presidential bids before, most recently four years ago, this time he’s taking concrete steps towards launching a GOP campaign: hiring staff in New Hampshire and the other early voting states, opening an office in Manchester, and setting up a presidential exploratory committee. And last week he showcased a 17-member New Hampshire leadership team.

If this is all just a psych-out, with his New Hampshire hires and planned trip up there the day after his “major announcement” all part of a ruse, it’s awfully elaborate. (He’s also hired staff in Iowa and South Carolina.) Also, if it’s a ruse, why focus on New Hampshire instead of Iowa, the first state up and the source of most early primary buzz? Emphasizing New Hampshire instead of Iowa makes strategic sense for Trump since they’re more likely to warm to mavericks and northeasterners, especially ostenatious populists in the Buchanan mold. And hey, if ever there was a year when even Trump might be inclined to take the plunge, this is it. With the base potentially splitting among 15 or so(!) different candidates, a guy who’s universally known to the electorate, has money to burn on advertising, and is sure to get tons of free press might as well jump in and see what happens.

Is Donald Trump that guy, though? Forget the fact that he’d be forced to disclose his financial holdings if he ran; like I said a few months ago, I think the biggest deterrent for him is the very high risk that he’d not only lose but lose badly, and maybe not just to the heavy hitters in the field like Rubio and Walker. Trump’s public image, distilled to one word in the minds of most of the public, is “success.” If you’ve ever seen an interview with him, you know how prone he is to using superlatives to describe his own accomplishments and his plans for the country. If he jumps in and finishes in single digits, possibly even behind fellow presidential novices like Ben Carson or — gasp — Carly Fiorina, who’s also trading on her business expertise in running, what’s left of that successful image? Even if, in some alternate dimension, he won an early state or two and ended up facing off with Bush or Rubio or Walker or some more seasoned pol for the nomination, the great mass of GOP voters would break for the other guy in the name of electability, not to mention conservative bona fides. Why would Trump set himself up for that sort of ego crush, even in a field that’s so deeply divided you can kinda sorta almost convince yourself that anyone can win?

Here’s his latest interview via the Brody File. If he does end up getting in, my hunch is that his over-the-top populism will end up pulling some blue-collar votes from Huckabee and Santorum, which means … maybe it’s not such a bad thing that this guy’s running. Speaking of which, exit question via Sean Trende: Is there a semi-plausible scenario in which Mike Huckabee is the only GOP contender who qualifies for the nomination? Remember, under the GOP’s new rules, a candidate must win a clear majority of delegates in at least eight states to have his name placed in nomination at the convention. It’s possible, given the size of the field, that the race will drag on for months with four or five candidates doggedly refusing to drop out, each winning a few winner-take-all states in his particular regional stronghold but not quite racking up eight wins. Maybe it’s only Huck, who’s strong in the south, who can win a clear majority in eight — in which case he’d be the only candidate eligible to be nominated at the convention, even if others had more delegates and more popular votes than he did. Can’t wait to see whom he’ll choose as his running mate!