The Republican presidential candidates are a bunch of “clowns.”

That’s not some liberal pundit mouthing off. It’s the wealthy guy who is now signaling that he will join the field next week.

Yep, Donald Trump looks ready to inflict himself on the process.

He’s been playing this flirtation game for years, of course, and nobody has been more skeptical than me that he’d actually give up “The Apprentice” and expose himself to the trench warfare of politics. But he says he will make an announcement next Tuesday that will make a lot of people happy, the Raleigh News & Observer reports.

And The Donald made clear in that interview that he won’t be shy about taking shots at his rivals, “after watching Bush make a total ass---- of himself, Rubio makes an ass---- of himself.”

This is why most journalists, despite their skepticism about a Trump candidacy, are secretly hoping he runs—just to liven things up.

Having covered Trump on and off for three decades, I can tell you that he loves to engage with the press—and to dump on journalists who write or say something he dislikes. (His latest Twitter targets: Chuck Todd and Charles Krauthammer.) But then he’ll probably return your call the next time anyway.

The bombastic businessman is ramping up his rhetoric: “It’s about making America great again. I can do it, and nobody else can do it.”

What about his lack of foreign policy experience? “I’ve made a lot of money beating China and other countries,” he told the North Carolina paper. “I only have experience beating other countries. Is that good experience?”

Yes, and in case you were wondering, “I would be the greatest jobs president that God ever created.”

On a lighter note, he insisted: “It is my hair, by the way.”

One reason Trump will be a factor, if he runs, is that he’ll almost certainly be in the Fox debate, and the top CNN debate after that. National polls reward name recognition, and Trump is around 5 percent, putting him about eighth but still in the top 10. That means when not singing his own praises, he can use his stage time to attack the other candidates.

In a Bloomberg poll in April, 26 percent said they “might consider” voting for Trump, but 62 percent said they would “never consider” voting for him. In Iowa, a Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll said 58 percent could never consider supporting Trump.

There is, to put it mildly, a huge gap between the way Trump sees himself and how the electorate views him, at least for now.

And keep in mind that Trump’s business record would come under scrutiny if he’s an official candidate, such as the bankruptcy of his casino company.

So the man who wrote “The Art of the Deal” is going to have a hard time closing the deal. That is, if he runs. But he could become, well, one of the loudest voices in the Republican field.

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Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.