WASHINGTON — On this day in 2000, Donald Trump said no to the presidency.
Actually, he said no to seeking the Reform Party nomination, which at that point he was an actual contender. Likewise the Reform Party — which is all but gone today — was a serious political organization on all 51 ballots and loaded with money.
Standing at Mar-da-lago, Trump declared he would not seek the presidency on the Reform Party ticket because that party was “too dysfunctional.” He and his political advisor, Roger Stone, cited polling numbers that showed support for him was “out of this world” but he chose not to run.
Trump first announced his decision during an appearance on The Today Show and then to the media that had covered him.
“I have consistently stated that I would spend my time, energy and money on a campaign, not just to get a large number of votes, but to win,” Trump told reporters. “There would be no other purpose, other than winning, for me to run. I have therefore decided not to seek the presidential nomination of the Reform Party.
“To win the presidency as a third-party candidate, all forces within that party would have to strongly pull together and be totally united,” he said in his statement. “Sadly, this has not happened.”
However, he did say in an interview then that in regards to running again, that “in a number of years, I might consider it.”
It was the most serious of Trump’s three presidential feigns until he actually ran in 2016. He had let his name be floated in a “draft Trump” nascent movement in 1987 and then considered running as a Republican in 2012.
During his four-month sniffing of the Reform Party nomination, which included a high-profile visit to California, Trump said he would spend at least $100 million to fund his run; he also promised to marry his then fiance, Melanie Knauss, so he would have a first lady.
He broke the engagement in January 2000 but the two reconciled later in the year. Trump kept his promise and made her first lady 17 years later.
Some other things were similar to that campaign and some quite different.
For example, Trump offered themes that were rekindled in 2016, including bashing existing trade agreements and corrupt politics.”I understand this stuff,” Trump said on Meet The Press when he announced his interest in running. “I understand good times and I understand bad times. I mean, why is a politician going to do a better job than I am?”
Trump’s primary foe during his flirtation was conservative commentator Patrick Buchanan, who had sought the GOP presidential nomination in past elections. The two exchanged sharp barbs during the months Trump was running.
Trump also said his pick for a running mate would be Oprah Winfrey, whose television show he had appeared on in the past. He told reporters that Winfrey is “somebody that is very special.”
Flash forward to the 2016 race. Buchanan endorsed Trump while Winfrey opposed him.