Donald Trump launched a bid for the White House Tuesday with trademark braggadocio, saying the smarts that built his business empire could restore America's global standing.
"We need somebody that can take the brand of the United States and make it great again," the real estate magnate and reality TV star said.
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Trump, 69, who has flirted before with a presidential run, becomes the 12th candidate to officially seek the 2016 GOP nod.
His grand entrance was an escalator descent into the Trump Tower's marble-paneled atrium, set to Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World." He flashed a double thumbs-up to spectators on balconies wearing shirts with his campaign slogan: "Make America great again."
In a 45-minute speech that touched often on the properties he owns and business deals he's closed, Trump vowed to return jobs and money from China, Mexico and Japan. "I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created," he said.
The host of NBC's "The Apprentice" gave an assessment of America's troubles that was characteristically blunt. He said immigrants "with lots of problems" were crossing the border from Mexico. "They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists," he said, tempering the statement with: "Some, I assume, are good people."
To stop illegal immigration, he said, he would erect a "great, great wall" and have Mexico foot the bill. "Nobody builds walls better than me -- believe me -- and I build them very inexpensively," he said.
Trump in the past has echoed the conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama was not really born in the United States. Tuesday, he stuck to policy attacks, condemning the Democrat's Affordable Care Act as a "big lie" and promising to repeal it. He joked that when Obama leaves office, "he might even be on one of my [golf] courses. . . . I have the best courses in the world."
Trump, joined onstage afterward by his wife, five children and their spouses and kids, said he'll self-finance his campaign.
"I'm not using the lobbyists. I'm not using donors. I don't care. I'm really rich," he said.
He brandished a one-page financial summary showing his net worth as $8.7 billion. He must file a more detailed disclosure report with the Federal Election Commission within a month.
The filing is one condition of eligibility for debates. Another is his poll standing. His 4 percent showing in a Washington Post/ABC News poll last month put him in a tie for ninth place, which would make the cut. That poll also showed him with a 16 percent favorable and 71 percent unfavorable rating among voters.
Veteran Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf said Trump could well siphon attention from other hopefuls in the crowded Republican field. "Generally, in situations where there's no incumbent, the insurgent tends to be very important," Sheinkopf said.
Trump is no direct threat to the leading candidates such as Jeb Bush, but "as they're trying to say, "We're not a party of radicals and politicians with far-out ideas . . . he somehow hurts the party image going into the general election," said Julian Zelizer, a Princeton University professor of history and public affairs.
The Democratic National Committee on Tuesday greeted Trump's entry with sarcasm: "He adds some much-needed seriousness that has previously been lacking from the GOP field."
Trump's audience of a few hundred included some passersby coaxed in from Fifth Avenue and others with invitee tickets.
Lou Nascone, 55, of Bayville, New Jersey, said Trump's message resonated with him as a fellow businessman.
"We've got to bring business back to America," he said, adding that "everything" seems to be made in China.