Could Donald Trump Win a Seat in the White House?

Donald Trump hinted this week that he's considering running for president. Can the public get over his business' 2009 bankruptcy?
Donald Trump hinted this week that he's considering running for president. Can the public get over his business' 2009 bankruptcy?

If he decides to run for president, Donald Trump's campaign will likely be counting on the general public's short memory to give him a shot, according to Larry Berman, a political science professor at the University of California at Davis. The 64-year-old businessman-turned-television personality on Friday hinted that he's considering candidacy in the 2012 elections.

Trump is pitching himself as the type of seasoned business leader who could accelerate the economic recovery in the U.S. by boosting domestic productivity and negotiating more favorable trade agreements with rapidly growing economic powers such as China. That might draw guffaws from those who remember that his company, Trump Entertainment Resorts (TRMPQ), filed for Chapter 11 early last year.

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But the company, which owns Atlantic City's Taj Mahal and the Trump Plaza hotel casinos, emerged from bankruptcy in July, and the Chapter 11 may no longer be even a blip on the radar of many people's memories. "The average layperson sees him as a successful," Berman says. "Then again, the average person doesn't let the facts get in the way of anything."

Will Voters Favor Business Leaders?

Of course, if Trump does run for president, he will hardly be the first businessman to do so. Billionaire H. Ross Perot ran for president in 1992, garnering 19% of the popular vote as an independent and losing out to Democrat Bill Clinton. Publisher Steve Forbes ran for office as a Republican candidate in 1996 and 2000, but failed to win his party's nomination. And former President George W. Bush's previous business ventures included an ownership stake in baseball's Texas Rangers (the team that famously traded away Sammy Sosa on his watch).

With the economy in flux, the public may view someone from the private sector more favorably than in the past. Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman is counting on that as she is takes on career politician Jerry Brown in California's governor race, and Trump, who's been starring on the NBC television show "The Apprentice" since 2004, has is far more famous than she.

"For the first time in my life, I'm actually thinking about it," Trump said, referring to his potential candidacy in a telephone interview on Fox News earlier this week. "I see what's going on with this country, and it's never been worse. China is ripping this country like it's never been ripped before."

What he may really be thinking about, however, is how to boost ratings for his television show, which has languished in viewership since the current TV season started last month. "He's a legend in his own mind," Berman says. "My initial reaction was that he's doing it for the publicity."