Did you hear about Donald Trump? He tied for first place in the CNN poll, after coming in second in the NBC/WSJ poll. He wrote a scathing letter to the New York Times, and another to Vanity Fair. He is considering running as an independent. He met with Mike Huckabee. He has a beef with Bill Cosby. He talked with Reince Priebus. He thinks Obama is hiding something. It goes on.
The Donald is back big time in the national news cycle, after decades of comings and goings. The current notoriety all centers around his potential presidential run–though he also just bought a winery in Virginia, which he will rename, wait for it, “Trump.”
So here’s some more Trump trivia to add to the veritable bonfire of Trump news. As there is no Trump campaign at the moment, Trump supporters have two main ways of supporting the Trump effort, such as it is. One is called DraftTrump2012.com, which has been put together by the celebrated and controversial Roger Stone, a GOP operative who helped put together Trump’s abandoned 2000 bid for the Reform Party ticket. The website accepts Pay Pal donations, and is registered through Federal Election Committee, but has yet to post any reports of its haul. The goal of the group, says Stone, is to hire staffers in early primary states to begin independent grassroots organizations on Trump’s behalf. Trump says that though he is happy for Stone’s support, Stone is not working for him in any official capacity.
The second independent draft Trump effort, ShouldTrumpRun.com, which does not accept contributions, is far closer to the man itself. It is being run by a close friend of Trump, Stewart Rahr, and a senior executive at the Trump Organization, Michael Cohen, who keeps an office down the hall from Trump, on the 26th floor of Fifth Avenue’s Trump Tower. The idea for this effort sprang from a conversation Cohen and Rahr had last year over drinks in Rahr’s Manhattan apartment, which is in a Trump-branded building. A poll had just come out showing some interest in a Trump candidacy in New Hampshire.
“I happen to believe that Trump makes a great leader and a great negotiator,” Rahr told me last week, when I caught up with him. Worth $1.4 billion, according to Forbes, he is a former pharmaceutical wholesaler, who now passes his time largely with philanthropic ventures. He also owns one of the most expensive estates in the Hamptons, and is known to the society pages as “Stewie Rah Rah, The #1 King of Fun.” (He once created a business card that looked like a $1 billion bill, with a photo of himself golfing with Trump and former President Bill Clinton.) Rahr first met Trump about 15 years ago, when he was first making his fortune, when he asked Trump to pose for a picture at a book signing.
“I said, “Can I have a picture Mr. Trump?’ ‘” Rahr remembers. “He said, ‘No pictures. No pictures.’ And then I ripped out this Crain’s Business magazine.” Rahr showed his own wealth ranking, far below Trump’s at the time, but still considerable. Trump agreed to the picture, and then wrote a note to Rahr that read, “Catch me if you can.” In the years that followed, as Rahr rose on the Crain’s ranking, Rahr would shoot notes to Trump. “Closing the gap,” it would say. They became fast friends, though according to Forbes, Trump still has more money.
The friendship made some headlines a few weeks back, when Cohen flew alone on Trump’s three-engine 727 to fly to Des Moines for a meeting with the state Republican Party chair. Rahr paid for the trip, after asking Trump to borrow the plane. He had planned to be on the flight with Cohen, but at the last minute meeting he found out he had to go to a separate meeting in New Orleans.
Neither Cohen nor Rahr say they know for sure if Trump will run, but they have been working hard to clear the way for a possible late May announcement, after the season finale of the Trump’s NBC reality show, The Celebrity Apprentice. “We both think that this country is in a bad place right now,” explains Cohen. “Stewart’s children and grandchildren will be fine. How many people are like that in this country? Maybe a hundred? Two hundred? What about the rest of the 298,900,000 people who are going to have to figure out what their kids and grandkids are going to do.” Both men are convinced that a President Trump could provide the answer.