Republican businessman Donald Trump on Tuesday announced the formation of a presidential exploratory committee.
This step is the closest Trump has come to officially launching a White House bid, and, in a conversation with Business Insider on Wednesday, he suggested it should serve as notice to those who doubt he's seriously considering the 2016 race. He decided not to run in 2012 after a lengthy, public flirtation with the prospect.
"This time, I'm very far down the line, so we'll see what happens," Trump said. "I'm going to surprise a lot of people."
In fact, Trump pointed to his doubters as proof of the strength of his candidacy.
"I'm doing well in polls and people think I'm not running!" he said.
Now that Trump is one step from an official campaign launch, he said he would make a final decision by the summer.
"I would say June or July," Trump said, adding, "For an announcement one way or the other."
Establishing the committee will allow Trump to hire campaign staff and travel to early primary states.
"We have a big staff and a lot of other things, too," Trump said. "We have a staff of people in Iowa, South Carolina, and also, very importantly, in New Hampshire."
Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, launched her campaign on Sunday, and her team has indicated her initial effort will be designed to appear "grassroots" rather than as a large operation. Trump said he would employ the opposite strategy.
"I'm going big," he said. "I get the biggest crowds. I get standing O's when I speak because people like that they know that I'm not going to let China rip us off, I'm not going to let Mexico continue to rip us off ... Japan is doing a big number and nobody knows it."
While Clinton seems eager to show Americans she's not out of touch despite her massive fortune and years in politics, Trump is confident his background as a real-estate mogul should actually help him appeal to voters.
"I've done so many things and so many deals. I've had such success and a lot of people may view that not as positive as it should be viewed," Trump said, adding, "But that's the kind of mind that you need when you're negotiating with Russia, when you're negotiating with Iran ... You need somebody that knows how to make deals."
Furthermore, Trump isn't convinced Clinton's rebranding efforts will work.
"I don't know if she's going to pull it off," Trump said. "People know Hillary. I don't know if you can change 30 or 40 years of history by going small in Iowa."
In her early appearances on the campaign trail, Clinton has also struck a populist tone with comments criticizing high executive salaries; student debt; and low tax rates for hedge fund managers. Trump said he did not believe Clinton would really take on big-business interests because of her relationships with donors.
(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
"Hillary's not going to do this. Hillary's getting most of her campaign contributions from people on Wall Street," Trump said. "She's got some of the biggest fat cats in her camp."
Along with Clinton, Trump weighed in on his potential Republican rivals in his conversation with Business Insider. Trump complimented Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who launched his campaign last month, for focusing on the religious right.
"I think it's a great base, certainly a base that should be thought of very highly," Trump said of conservative Christians. "It's certainly something that a lot of people are going after."
Trump had harsher words for Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), who kicked off his presidential bid on April 7.
"He's becoming less libertarian," Trump said. "He was very libertarian, now he's becoming less libertarian. I think that might hurt his base. He's got a very fine line to toe. He's changed his views quite a bit, and he's got to be careful ... His libertarian views are not so libertarian any more."
While Trump isn't ready to officially say he's entering the presidential race — there's one office it seems he's definitely not pursuing. Business Insider asked Trump whether he would consider running for vice president if one of the other Republicans tapped him as a running mate.
Trump seemed decidedly uninterested in the idea of running in another candidate's shadow.
"It would be something that would be very difficult for me to do," Trump said.
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