This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," January 26, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST: We got to talk politics. Here we've had three states, one caucus, two primaries, three different outcomes, a wild, you know, rollercoaster ride in terms of the polls. What do you make of this year?
DONALD TRUMP, TRUMP ORGANIZATION CEO: Nobody knows what to make, it's a mess, and it's a mess because the Republicans unfortunately are playing right into Obama's hands. I think. Now, you could say that if somebody were just going to win and run out the clock, which happened last time with a good guy named John McCain and for six months nobody talked to about him and then you had the election and it wasn't so good. You know, because he was taken out of the news. At least this way, Mitt and Newt are in the news all the time, 24/7.
TRUMP: And you know, the case can be made that maybe it's better that it's going on like this. Sarah Palin, who I think is fantastic, by the way. She made the case that, you know, let it keep going, let it keep going. So, you know, maybe it's not so wrong.
HANNITY: Last time we spoke you said you were very close to endorsing. Are you close to endorsing?
TRUMP: Yes, I mean, at some point I'm going to make an endorsement over the next period of time. And I'm watching it very closely. I want somebody that is going to win, I want somebody that I think can do a great job. But I will make an endorsement at sometime, yes.
HANNITY: What do you view -- let's look at Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. Give me just off the top of your head what you think are their bigger strengths, their weaknesses.
TRUMP: Well, both good men. Both good people. I know them both and I have really gotten to know them both very well. I love what Newt is doing with respect to debates. I mean, he is just a natural debater. Like we were talking just a little while ago about natural golfers, some people are naturals, they just have an ability.
HANNITY: I'm not and you are.
TRUMP: Well, whatever. But, you know, there are some people in sports. Is he a natural born debater. I mean, he's really very good. Although, in the last debate he was very toned down. I don't know if that was on purpose or whatever. But I thought there were a lot of good opportunities he would have had. I think he wanted to tone down the rhetoric and maybe that's a good thing. But he's very, very good at that, I think he would do great against Obama in the debates. And it's a big plus because we know the importance of debates. You look at Nixon/Kennedy. I mean, Kennedy was never going to win. It was going to be a romp. And they debated and it was over. Kennedy won because he did well. Nixon didn't do so well. Learned a lot. He wore the wrong suit, looked gray.
HANNITY: Didn't put makeup on. It's interesting, those who listened on radio thought Nixon had won that debate.
TRUMP: I see. That's very interesting. Well, I can understand that. But that was a whole big thing. You don't wear gray suits when you are in the debates, you don't wear certain kind of ties. But he didn't look good. He was sweating. So, the debates play a very big presidential in terms of getting the presidential nomination. So, that's very strong.
I really have gotten to know Mitt and I like him a lot. I wish he could come across like he does one-on-one. And you may say the same thing. He is a tremendous guy. Great guy. I also wish he would be a little bit more proud of his success. I mean, he has really become and he has, you know, he's done a great job. He has put a lot of people to work. As an example when he talks about Bain and Bain Capital, he always says well, I had some good ones, I had some bad ones. I weed the bad ones out. You don't have to mention, your opponents will mention the bad ones. You don't have to mention it. He should be proud of his success, he should be proud of the American dream.
Hey, look, I published my financial statement.
HANNITY: In your book.
TRUMP: I published it, I don't care. I mean, I'm proud of it, I mean, I employ thousands and thousands of people. And I'm very proud of it. I actually put my financial statement in the book that I was going to do for government. I said, hey, it's ready, it's there. We took the summary pages, we put them in the book. And I'm very proud of the fact that, you know, I did a great job. I have done a great job. Lots of cash, very little debt, great net worth. And that's what the country needs.
HANNITY: Do you think in that sense, he playing it too safe? He's playing not to lose, not playing to win and maybe Newt is a little bit more bold, but it's a riskier strategy?
TRUMP: I think it's also a presentation. And I tell him, just go out there and present because they are stuttering, they're stammering. It's sort of like, you know, when we are talking about the tax returns, if you didn't see them -- and the tax returns look like they're fine. But if you didn't see the tax returns you would think there is almost like something wrong. What's wrong? Because it was so tentative. And I really think he is a terrific guy. I think he would do a very good job. I don't think people understand him. I don't think they know him. And he has got to get that across. He has got to somehow get that across.
HANNITY: He's also, it seems that he is having a harder time getting the conservative base. You need a conservative base to get this nomination.
TRUMP: You do.
HANNITY: And Newt seems to energize him.
TRUMP: I think Newt feels more comfortable. That doesn't mean he is better or anything else. But I think he feels more comfortable, perhaps, talking to you and talking to other people than Mitt. Mitt doesn't feel comfortable. And, yet, when you are with him one-on-one, great guy. And if that could come across a little bit more, I think he would do very well. And I think he is going to do very well.
HANNITY: Are you concerned at all about the back and forth? I mean, it's really gotten ugly. You spent a lot of time in Florida. The ad wars are going on.
TRUMP: It's unbelievable.
HANNITY: It's all negative and it's all against each other, not bringing up Obama. It's back and forth I think on some pretty superfluous stuff.
TRUMP: Right. Well, again, we're going to see what happens but it's going to be in the news for quite some time. Nobody is leaving this race very quickly. This is, you know, this was going to be over after Florida and now it looks like it could last for months, literally months and maybe even to the convention. So, that may be a good thing. We are going to see what happens.
HANNITY: You said yesterday on your Twitter account that Ivanka, your daughter would want you to run for president still. So, is that question still out there? Have we not resolved this yet?
TRUMP: Well, she actually said on her account and I thought that was great. You know what that shows? I have a daughter that loves me. A beautiful daughter and a wonderful daughter. One of the nicest people I've ever met, Ivanka. And she loves her father. So that's nice. I'm sure your family wants you to run --
HANNITY: No, I would hope my kids would want me to -- everyone wants their kids --
TRUMP: -- to run for president.
HANNITY: Well, I don't think everyone wants their father to run for president. It wouldn't be viable.
But are you still thinking about it? I mean, there is a movement to get an independent opening on all 50 states.
TRUMP: Well, you saw, they did a poll recently, a couple of month, a month ago. And I was the number one choice in the poll to run as an independent. I was very impressed by that. But the truth is, until the "Apprentice" ends which is in May, mid-May, I'm not allowed to do anything because of some really unfair laws having to do with equal time. So, if you are on a show or if you have a show, especially a big show like the "Apprentice," you are not allowed to.
HANNITY: That's crazy.
TRUMP: I think it's crazy. Obama can go on shows, he can do interviews, he can fly around on a 747 and laugh at how stupid everybody is as he sits with his wife and looks out the window and says, "Baby, look where we are. This is great. Do you believe how stupid those people are? Look at us." And he has done a lousy job as president.
HANNITY: Yes, I agree.
TRUMP: Now, there is no problem with that but if I have a show -- I have a show and I'm not allowed to do anything. So, I'm not allowed to do anything until mid-May, after that I'm a free agent.
HANNITY: All right. But you are saying, you are likely to endorse soon. So, if you endorse.
TRUMP: Yes. If I endorse and if that person loses, that's possible too. And then I can do whatever I want -- no, if I endorse somebody, I'm not going to be running against them.
HANNITY: Against that person.
TRUMP: I promise.
HANNITY: What happened in South Carolina was really unique. Because you had these two big debates. Newt comes out. He has a battle with Juan Williams, John King, and all of a sudden it's almost a 30 point shift in a week.
HANNITY: Wins by a pretty large margin in South Carolina. So, debates have played a really big part in the nomination process. All right. How big is that going to factor in? In other words, somebody's ability to get in Obama's face, confront him, debate him, be forceful, because I would imagine if you were a candidate that's what you would do.
TRUMP: I would love to debate Obama. I mean, you have so much material. I would love to debate Obama. I think that again, you know, you get back down who is going to do better in debates. Thus far, Newt has done really well in debates. And, you know, Romney has done very well in the debates.
HANNITY: They have all gotten better.
TRUMP: They have all gotten better. But I think they both do very well in the debates. But I would say again, Newt is a master at the debate. And I think he is a little bit more in your face and that's what we need.
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