NEW YORK — Real estate mogul Donald Trump said Tuesday he expects Texas Gov. Rick Perry to do "very nicely" as a presidential candidate. But Trump stopped short of endorsing Perry and said he hasn't ruled out running for president himself as an independent.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Trump said Perry was a welcome entry in the GOP field that includes former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann. Bachmann won the Iowa straw poll Saturday, the same day Perry announced he too would seek the party's nomination to challenge President Barack Obama in 2012.
"I think Rick Perry is a real positive. Nobody can predict outcomes, but I think he will do very nicely," Trump said. "We need someone in this country who is willing to shake things up."
Trump, a multimillionaire reality show host, flirted publicly with joining the Republican presidential field before opting out of the race in May. He had gained considerable attention by stirring renewed controversy over President Barack Obama's Hawaii birth, leading the White House to persuade the state to release a copy of Obama's long-form birth certificate after two years of dismissing the issue.
On Tuesday, Trump said he would still consider running next year as an independent if he doesn't believe the candidate who wins the GOP nomination is strong enough to beat Obama. Trump said he'd make a decision after the next season of his show, "Celebrity Apprentice," ends in June.
"I have an obligation. We have a tremendous following – millions of people who would like to see me run," Trump said.
Trump also defended Perry's suggestion Monday that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke would be committing a "treasonous" act if he pumped more money into the economy.
"It was a meaningless phrase, it was just rhetorical. He's very emotional about how the country is doing," Trump said of Perry, pushing back on President George W. Bush's former political director Karl Rove and other Republicans who have criticized Perry's comment.
"Karl Rove is an empty hat," Trump said. "We ended up with Obama because of Karl Rove and George W. Bush."