Donald Trump said Monday he won’t run for president, choosing to stick with hosting his reality TV show over a bid for the Republican nomination for next year’s election.

The real estate mogul made his announcement at a Manhattan hotel as NBC, which airs his show, “The Celebrity Apprentice,” rolled out its autumn line-up.

“I will not be running for president as much as I’d like to,” Mr. Trump said.

Some public opinion polls had once shown Mr. Trump leading the slow-to-coalesce Republican field, which still lacks a clear front-runner. Among the top hopefuls are former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. President Barack Obama is seen as a tough incumbent to beat in the November 2012 elections despite the U.S. economy’s continuing woes.

In the past few months, Mr. Trump delivered speeches to national Republican groups and travelled to states that hold early primary elections. During that time, he reignited the so-called “birther” controversy by raising questions about Mr. Obama’s birth place, insisting that there were doubts whether the president was born in Hawaii. He amassed admiration from many on the far right who have insisted Mr. Obama was born overseas and, thus, wasn’t eligible to serve as president.

Mr, Obama finally distributed his long-form birth certificate earlier this month, indirectly casting Trump as a carnival barker and the controversy as a sideshow. Mr. Trump took credit for the release even though it robbed his candidacy of its signature issue and the buzz around his possible campaign died down.

Days later, the president retaliated in his monologue at the White House Correspondents Association dinner, where he poked fun at the birth certificate controversy and mocked Mr. Trump and his television show. A stone-faced Trump heard the barbs from both Mr. Obama and comedian Seth Meyers. A day later, NBC interrupted the airing of Trump’s show with word of an Obama announcement - within 45 minutes the president informed the nation and the world that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden had been killed.

Mr. Trump is the second Republican in a matter of days to say no to a bid for the Republican nomination. Mike Huckabee, who made a strong showing in the 2008 primaries, announced Saturday that he wouldn’t seek the presidency.

Mr. Trump has floated the idea of a presidential candidacy in both 1988 and 2000 but claimed he was more serious than ever this time, citing the weak economy and the sense that the United States was in decline.

On Monday his office released a formal statement just as Mr. Trump was taking the stage. In it, a confident Trump said he felt he could win the Republican primary and beat Mr. Obama in the general election but had come to realize a presidential campaign could not be run half-heartedly.

“Ultimately, business is my greatest passion and I am not ready to leave the private sector,” Mr. Trump said.

With his flashy New York lifestyle and multiple marriages - his current wife, Melania, is a supermodel 23 years his junior – Mr. Trump might have been hard-pressed to convince conservative Republican primary voters he was one of them. But his supporters insisted that in a turbulent economy, voters are looking for a strong manager and business leader as president.

Tim Pawlenty. Republicans are still waiting to hear whether Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin or Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann will get in the race.

More In: International | News