Trump visits early-voting states: savvy campaigning or 'a stunt'?

Donald Trump continues to fan the flames of the blogosphere rumor mill, even as GOP leaders (other than Sarah Palin) distance themselves from his 'birther' claims.

By , Staff Writer

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    Donald Trump attends the South Florida Tea Party's third annual tax day rally on April 16, in Boca Raton, Fla. Trump repeatedly told the crowd he has the qualities needed in the White House.
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Where's The Donald? Chances are, in an early-voting state.

After scheduling visits to Iowa and New Hampshire in June, and headlining a tea party rally this weekend in Florida, Donald Trump is heading to Nevada next week to speak to several Republican women's groups.

All of which, of course, is making the blogosphere go even crazier discussing the likelihood of a presidential campaign.

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But even as Mr. Trump fans the "birther" flames and tells Florida tea partiers, "If I run and win, our country will be respected again," a number of observers are speculating that this is all one long publicity stunt.

Trump has said he's likely to use the May 22 finale of "The Apprentice" – which has had flagging ratings – to make an announcement. About when and where he will hold a press conference announcing his decision?

It wouldn't be the first time he's used the "Apprentice" finale as the platform for a major announcement – when he criticized the plans for Ground Zero in 2005, he promised to unveil his own proposal on the show's finale – and it's not the first time he's flirted with a presidential bid.

But even some colleagues at NBC are skeptical of his posturing. An unnamed NBC executive told Entertainment Weekly, "If he wants to spout off about things, we’re happy to let him. But our inclination is that he’s not serious about running for president. We think it’s a stunt.”

The flying rumors do seem to keep people talking about him, though. A Pew Research survey released today put Trump far above any other name as the possible GOP candidate Americans have heard the most about lately. Over a quarter of respondents named Trump, compared with nine percent who cited Mitt Romney, the next name on the list. That said, over half the respondents couldn't name anyone.

And in the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, Trump was tied with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee for first place, when Republicans were asked who they would support for a presidential bid.

But while Sarah Palin continues to defend Trump and his obsession with President Obama's birth certificate, telling Fox News Tuesday night that he is being "treated unfairly," other prominent Republicans are quickly distancing themselves from the birther question, seeing it as an issue that appeals only to the right-wing fringe and may alienate independent voters. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, a tea party leader, was the latest Republican to say she had no concerns about where Obama was born, telling ABC's Good Morning America on Wednesday that she accepted the Hawaii birth record the president has released.

Other GOP leaders – including Karl Rove, and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a likely presidential candidate – have also rejected the birther claims (which have also been disproven by several fact-finding organizations). On Monday, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a "birther bill" that would have required future presidential candidates to produce a long-form birth certificate or other proof in order to appear on the state ballot.

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