Real-estate mogul and reality-television star Donald Trump, who has brazenly flirted with running for office before but never followed through, announced Tuesday that he will seek the Republican nomination for president. Trump entered the race in a bombastic spectacle befitting a man whose businesses successes are matched by his penchant for self-promotion.
"All of my life, I have heard, a truly successful person, a really successful person, and even a modestly successful person, cannot run for public office — just can't happen," Trump said. "Yet that's the kind of mindset you need to make this country great again."
Trump, the 12th high-profile Republican to enter the 2016 race, announced his candidacy in a free-ranging 40-minute speech in which he boasted about his ability to fortify the border with Mexico to prevent "rapists" from entering the U.S. ("Nobody builds walls better than me") and invited President Barack Obama to play golf at one of his courses.
"Sadly, the American dream is dead," Trump said. "But if I get elected president, I will bring it back bigger and better and stronger than ever before, and we will make America great again."
With his usual bluster, he mixed boasts about his wealth with promises to spark the economy ("I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created"), effortlessly defeat the Islamic State group and negotiate trade deals with China.
He pulled no punches with his fellow Republicans, finishing a riff on Jeb Bush by saying, "How the hell can you vote for this guy?"
The speech drew immediate scorn online from Republicans who fear Trump will turn an otherwise serious primary contest into a circus. Trump, well known from his years in the public eye, is polling just well enough at the moment to land a spot in one of the early Republican debates, potentially pushing a more established candidate off the stage.
"I just apologized to my toddler for bringing him up in a country where Donald Trump runs for Prez, gets better than 2% in the polls," veteran Republican strategist Liz Mair tweeted.
GOP operative Brendan Buck, who helped Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, tweeted: "Who do I blame for Trump running for president?"
The Democratic National Committee's response dripped with sarcasm, saying Trump "adds some much-needed seriousness that has previously been lacking from the GOP field."
About 100 supporters, most wearing Trump T-shirts handed out by the campaign, cheered when he and his wife Melania descended to the stage via an escalator, whisking them past The Trump Grille, The Trump Bar and a stand selling T-shirts with his catchphrase "You're Fired." The spectacle was orchestrated in the Manhattan tower bearing his name.
Trump has withdrawn from "The Celebrity Apprentice," the TV show he could not continue once he announced as a presidential candidate. He has hired campaign staff in early states and will have to file the required financial disclosure report required of declared presidential candidates.
But on Tuesday, he held up just a one-page document that showed his net worth to be about $9 billion, money that he intimated proves he's qualified to be president.
"I'm using my own money. I'm not using lobbyists. I'm not using donors," Trump said. "I don't care. I'm really rich."
"It sounds crass," he said. "It's not crass."
Singer Neil Young, a Canadian whose song "Rockin' in the Free World" was part of Trump's announcement, issued a statement saying it was an unauthorized use and that Young supported Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.
Associated Press writer Steve Peoples contributed to this report from Washington.