(CNSNews.com) - New York business tycoon Donald Trump dropped his plans for a presidential run on Monday because, he said, the "self-destructing" Reform Party would give him no chance of winning.
While never formally entering the presidential sweepstakes, Trump hinted for weeks that he would be a legitimate candidate.
"You could only win the whole thing with a totally unified party," Trump said on NBC's Today Show.
After months of speculation about a possible candidacy, the colorful and controversial billionaire said he was dissuaded, in part, by the departure of Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, who had been an ally of Trump's in Reform Party spats.
Trump also took a shot at former Republican Pat Buchanan, who is seeking the party's nomination, and his unlikely supporter, leftist activist Lenora Fulani.
"The Reform Party is a total mess," Trump said. "You've got Buchanan, a right-winger and Fulani, a communist, and they've merged."
Trump's announcement ends a lengthy flirtation with the notion that the real estate developer could tap his fortune for a long-shot bid to capture the White House as a third-party candidate.
Trump said he would no longer consider running for president or vice president in 2000, even if Ventura or others got a new party off the ground. "In a number of years, I might consider it," Trump said.
The Today Show interview was the first in a round of media interviews on Monday in which Trump, in typical publicity-courting fashion, planned to announce his decision.
Trump met over the weekend with advisers to consider a second option, running as an Independence Party candidate, but he determined that there is not enough time to get on state ballots. Trump considered that option out of respect for Ventura, who had been the Reform Party's highest-elected official before leaving what he called the "dysfunctional" party last week to reinvigorate his state's Independence Party.
Ventura and Trump were allies during Reform Party in-fighting that culminated last Friday with the governor's departure and the ouster of a Ventura ally as the party's chairman.
A fractious Reform Party meeting on Saturday in Nashville, TN, returned power to allies of party founder Ross Perot, who has not ruled out running for president a third time.
While he never formally entered the race, Trump made a handful of campaign trips, hinted broadly for weeks that he would run and issued comprehensive health care and federal debt-reduction proposals. He held a single-digit ranking in most public polls and was not given much of a chance of winning the presidency.
Trump's decision leaves former Republican Pat Buchanan as the front-running candidate for the Reform Party nomination. Buchanan left the GOP after two failed presidential bids, eying the nearly $13 million in federal campaign funds that will be awarded the Reform nominee.
Trump estimates his personal net worth at $5 billion. Though independent analyses offer lower estimates, there was little doubt that he was wealthy enough to make a serious bid for the Reform Party nomination.
Many Perot allies encouraged Buchanan to bolt the GOP and join the Reform Party in part because they hoped the conservative firebrand could help defy Ventura's wing of the party. With Ventura out of the way, Perot's allies are speculating that the Texas billionaire could seek the nomination himself.
Perot has neither confirmed nor denied such speculation.