- (Photo: AP Images / Alex Brandon)
After flirting with conservatives and the Christian Right, business mogul Donald Trump has announced that he will not be entering the 2012 presidential race, leaving Republicans with neither of the two top GOP poll picks.
Trump announced on Monday that he has decided against a run for the presidency. The New York real estate giant released a statement before the end of his television show "Celebrity Apprentice," saying, "After considerable deliberation and reflection, I have decided not to pursue the office of the presidency."
Trump said his decision was not based on his chances at winning the GOP nomination. "I maintain the strong conviction that if I were to run, I would be able to win the primary and ultimately, the general election," he asserted.
Instead, he explained, "I have spent the past several months unofficially campaigning and recognize that running for public office cannot be done half-heartedly. Ultimately, however, business is my greatest passion, and I am not ready to leave the private sector. "
The news of Trump's decision leaves Republican supporters with a gaping hole in their list of favored contenders.
Top contender former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee announced Saturday night on his Fox News show that he will not seek the Republican nomination for president.
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Huckabee had steadily topped Gallup polls for most favored and recognized candidate in the pool of potential contenders.
Still, he said Saturday, "All the factors say go, but my heart says no, and that's the decision I've made ... I know for now, my answer is clear and firm, I will not seek the Republican nomination for president this year."
Last month, Trump was tied with Huckabee in the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation and Gallup polls as the top GOP presidential candidate among Republicans.
Trump had his detractors. Former GOP Chairman Michael Steele had previously condemned Trump for his "silly" focus on the birth issue of President Obama during a broadcast on MSNBC's Hardball.
Yet, despite his birther rants, Trump was growing in popularity among social conservatives.
Last week, he teamed up with Pastor Paula White to arrange a private meeting with Christian Leaders. Before that, evangelical Franklin Graham said that he was considering Trump as a candidate.
The April Gallup poll also showed that at 13 percent, Trump also had a higher percentage of conservative supporters than Tea Party favorites Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said of Trump, "Clearly, he's gotten the attention of social conservatives."
Now, Trump and Huckabee's absence may clear the way for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, both of whom trailed Huckabee in the polls.
However, neither has verified their position in the GOP nomination race. Romney is still testing the waters with an exploratory committee and Palin has been quietly touring the key states and Israel.
Some believe that former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain will likely benefit the most from Huckabee and Trump's absence. Salon quoted statistician Nathaniel Silver as declaring Cain "the most Huckabee-like of the other Republican candidates."
Cain, a self-professed Christian, has won the hearts of GOP voters in South Carolina and the Tea Party Patriots.
The current GOP field of announced GOP presidential candidates consists of Cain, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Gary Johnson and Rick Santorum. The list of potential contenders still waiting on the wings includes Bachmann, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman.