Trump Declines to Run for President, Cites 'Passion' for Business

The Donald has fired himself from the 2012 presidential race.

Donald Trump announced Monday that he will not run for president, saying he does not want to leave the private sector and would like to continue hosting his show, "The Celebrity Apprentice." The real estate mogul and reality TV star announced his decision on the day he was meeting with NBC executives to discuss the future of the show. Trump said Monday afternoon that "The Celebrity Apprentice" has made a lot of money for charity and he wanted to continue in that role.

"I will not be running for president as much as I'd like to," Trump said.

Trump, in a written statement, said he would not fade from the political spotlight, but cited his "passion" for business in his decision not to enter the 2012 Republican field. In trademark Trump fashion, he maintained he could have won the election if he wanted to.

"This decision does not come easily or without regret; especially when my potential candidacy continues to be validated by ranking at the top of the Republican contenders in polls across the country," Trump said. "I maintain the strong conviction that if I were to run, I would be able to win the primary and, ultimately, the general election. I have spent the past several months unofficially campaigning and recognize that running for public office cannot be done half-heartedly. Ultimately, however, business is my greatest passion and I am not ready to leave the private sector."

Trump is the latest potential candidate to make a definitive decision regarding the 2012 race. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee announced over the weekend that he would not run for the White House, after both ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul formally launched their campaigns.

Trump, though never a candidate, was able to dominate media coverage for weeks while he flirted with the idea of running. The businessman created political turbulence by drawing attention to questions surrounding President Obama's birth certificate, leading Obama to release the long-form version of the document. The release exposed Trump to ridicule at the recent White House Correspondents' Association dinner, but Trump nevertheless claimed a victory in having compelled Obama to produce the document.

In his statement, Trump thanked his supporters and vowed to stay vocal on issues ranging from the national debt to the country's economic competitiveness.

"I make you this promise: that I will continue to voice my opinions loudly and help to shape our politician's thoughts. My ability to bring important economic and foreign policy issues to the forefront of the national dialogue is perhaps my greatest asset and one of the most valuable services I can provide to this country," Trump said.

He also said he looks forward to backing whichever candidate is "the most qualified to help us tackle our country's most important issues."

Trump's exit, along with Huckabee's, sets off a scramble not only for their endorsement but for their supporters.

Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, described Trump as a "placeholder" but said a lot of GOP voters are now up for grabs.

"You put Trump and Huckabee together, you've got almost a third of Republican voters who are now uncommitted, because they picked candidates who now aren't running," Sabato told Fox News. "Someone's going to try and swoop in, I think, and scoop them up."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.