WASHINGTON -- New York tycoon Donald Trump said today he won't run for president because the Reform Party is ''self-destructing'' and can't provide the support a candidate needs to win.
''To win the presidency as a third party candidate, all forces within that party would have to strongly pull together and be totally unified,'' Trump said in a statement released in New York. ''Sadly, this has not happened.''
After months of speculation about a possible candidacy, the colorful and controversial billionaire said he was dissuaded by the departure of Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, who had been an ally of Trump's in the Reform Party squabbles.
''Without Jesse, the Reform Party is just an extremist shell and cannot be a force or even a factor in 2000,'' Trump said. He took shots at conservative Pat Buchanan, a former Republican seeking the party's nomination, and Buchanan's unlikely supporter, leftist activist Lenora Fulani.
''The Reform Party is a total mess,'' Trump said earlier on NBC's ''Today.'' ''You've got Buchanan, a right-winger, and Fulani, a communist, and they've merged, and I don't know what you have.''
Trump's announcement ends a lengthy flirtation with the notion that the real estate developer could tap his fortune for a long-shot bid to capture the White House as a third-party candidate.
Trump said he would no longer consider running for president or vice president in 2000, even if Ventura or others got a new party off the ground, because the prospects of winning with such a late-starting campaign would be slim. He did not rule out a run in 2004.
Trump met over the weekend with advisers to consider the option of running as an Independence Party candidate, but determined that there is not enough time to get on state ballots. Trump considered that option out of respect for Ventura, who had been the Reform Party's highest elected official before leaving the party -- he called it ''dysfunctional'' -- last week to reinvigorate his state's Independence Party.
The Reform Party feud culminated last Friday with the governor's departure and the ouster of a Ventura ally.
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