Trump launches presidential exploratory committee ahead of NH visit

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Real estate mogul Donald Trump launched a presidential exploratory committee on Wednesday, coinciding with a visit to New Hampshire the following day.

"I am the only one who can make America truly great again," the Republican businessman and reality television star declared in a statement announcing the move.

While a step short of a formal campaign launch, the formation of an exploratory committee allows him to begin raising money and hire staff as he weighs a White House bid. Trump said he's already hired political aides in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, which host the first three contests on the presidential nominating calendar.

"I have a great love for our country, but it is a country that is in serious trouble," Trump said in a wide-ranging statement that called for rebuilding the nation's infrastructure, improving border security, strengthening the military and improving the economy.

The New Hampshire Union Leader first reported that Trump would announce the formation of the committee, noting that Trump also would not renew his contract with NBC to host "The Apprentice" reality series.

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    Trump later appeared on "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren," where he blasted President Obama's leadership.

    "The country is in serious trouble. Some would say this country is going to hell," Trump said in a phone interview. "When was the last time something good happened?"

    The outspoken Republican has long hinted at presidential aspirations, but he appears more serious this time.

    Trump is scheduled to visit the Granite State Thursday to meet with a group of veterans and local business owners. He is scheduled to speak to the media in the afternoon prior to a reception at the home of Republican state Rep. Steve Stepanek.

    The Union Leader reported that Trump is also scheduled to speak at the New Hampshire Republican Party's Leadership Summit next month.

    Trump has flirted with the idea of running for president before without actually taking the plunge. In 1999, he formed an exploratory committee to consider seeking the 2000 Reform Party nomination that went to Pat Buchanan. For several months during the last election cycle, Trump repeatedly claimed that he was considering seeking the Republican nomination before deciding not to run.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.