Ever since Donald Trump began his flirtation with a 2012 presidential run, he's been playing a game of chicken with himself... and losing.
I agree with those who say the presidential talk started out as another classic Trump publicity stunt. After all, we went through the same farce in 2000. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
There are many reasons to believe Donald never intended to run: One dead giveaway was his hint that he'll declare his intentions on the May 22nd season finale of The Apprentice -- a blatant ratings ploy. Then there's the unnamed NBC executive who recently declared the whole thing is just "Donald Being Donald." In fact, the network's fall lineup -- expected to include another season of The Apprentice -- was locked in long ago. All the evidence suggests that Trump's forays into the early primary states were never the sign of a real campaign in the making.
But a funny thing happened on the way to New Hampshire: After a few incendiary accusations about President Obama, overnight Trump found himself running strong or even leading the still-forming GOP field.
Now Trump's in a pickle. How do you walk away from a presidential race when you're ahead? Every day that goes by, he finds himself teetering closer to the brink of a campaign he almost certainly never planned to enter.
The minute Trump were to announce his candidacy, he'd lose the Apprentice series for at least a year; the clock would start ticking on the release of his financial records; his closet full of skeletons would swing wide open; and he'd have to actually learn something about public policy.
Trump must know he needs to walk away; but how can he end this charade in a way that minimizes the damage it's already caused his brand and reputation?
Perhaps the absolute drubbing he took at the White House Correspondents' Dinner actually provides an opportunity. If I were advising the Trump "campaign," I'd suggest releasing a statement in the next few days that says something like this:
"I seriously considered running for president in 2012 because I'm deeply concerned about our country's ability to create jobs and compete in the global economy. We need a president who'll get serious about these real and growing problems for a change. I've known all along that Washington is broken, but in the past few weeks, even I have been shocked by the poisonous atmosphere in American politics. Anyone who presents themselves as a candidate for public office deserves scrutiny, but the viciousness of the current process precludes a serious debate on the issues. For this reason, I've determined that I can do far more good for America by continuing to build things and create more jobs in the private sector than anyone could as president."
Now, let's face it -- this approach transparently blames others for a circus that he created. But it may be the best option he has left. Unless Trump wants voters to tell him he's fired, now's the time to quit.
David Meadvin is President of Inkwell Strategies, a Washington, DC-based speechwriting and executive communications firm. He was chief speechwriter for the U.S. Attorney General and U.S. Senate Majority Leader.