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Will Trump's political gamble pay off? Maybe it already has.

Whether Donald Trump's political moves turn out to be entertainment, a presidential candidacy, or a bit of both, the press attention offers him big payoffs – for now.

By Staff writer / April 22, 2011

Donald Trump attends the South Florida Tea Party's third annual tax day rally on April 16, in Boca Raton, Fla.

Gary Coronado / Palm Beach Post / AP

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By testing the waters of a presidential run, Donald Trump is probably gaining financially even as he wins attention politically. At least so far.

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That's the view of some analysts of US politics and culture, who say Mr. Trump's expanded media exposure – whatever his own motivations may be –comes with dollar signs attached.

"It's a win-win situation," says Elizabeth Currid-Halkett, a University of Southern California expert on celebrities in US society. At best, the door keeps opening wider toward an improbable run for the White House in 2012. If that doesn't happen, she sees him reaping financial rewards, with rising visibility and a chance to cultivate a wider brand.

"It's very hard to put a precise dollar sign to what happens to Trump's bank account," says Professor. Currid-Halkett, author of "Starstruck: The Business of Celebrity." But visibility on the political stage, "if used correctly, can create new lines of revenue and new entrepeneurial efforts."

His career already shows a drive in that direction, with a knack for parlaying name recognition as a real estate mogul into cash as an author and TV personality. ("Political Apprentice," anyone? Or maybe a political talk show?)

Still, the audience ratings of Trump's current reality show, "Celebrity Apprentice," have sent mixed signals in recent weeks. They rose strongly after Trump began playing up his presidential aspirations earlier this year, but declined this month. Ratings can be influenced by many factors, of course, not just by headlines about The Donald wading into the "birther" controversy.

The potential downside

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