WASHINGTON, March 18 (Reuters) - Real estate mogul and TV personality Donald Trump took the first steps on Wednesday toward launching a 2016 presidential campaign, a sign the businessman may jump into the Republican race after publicly considering it in years past.
Trump said he had formed an exploratory committee to determine whether to run, and that he had hired staff in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Those states are among the first to hold Republican and Democratic presidential nominating contests.
"We have lost the respect of the entire world," Trump said in a statement Wednesday. "I am the only one who can make America truly great again!"
Trump, who owns several hotels and hosts the reality show "The Apprentice" on NBC, has toyed with running before but has indicated that this time, he is serious about considering it.
A growing list of Republicans is weighing White House runs, including Florida Senator Marco Rubio, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Trump has garnered attention for his sharp criticism of President Barack Obama's policies. But he also ruffled feathers with discredited questions over whether Obama was born in the United States, which led to Obama releasing his long-form birth certificate to end the controversy.
Trump will not renew his contract for "The Apprentice" while he explores running, according to The New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper. Trump said in the statement that he would go to New Hampshire Thursday to meet with business owners and veterans. (Reporting by Emily Stephenson; Editing by Susan Heavey and Bernadette Baum)