Donald Trump has what every presidential wannabe craves: very deep pockets, universal name recognition and a ready-made campaign slogan. Imagine Trump telling President Obama, "You're Fired!"
In recent weeks the brash businessman has made all the moves of someone mulling a White House run, from granting interviews to the political press to giving a red-meat speech in Washington. On Monday, Trump even dispatched an aide to huddle with the state Republican chairman in the presidential proving ground of Iowa.
So, will the leader of the Trump Empire really try to become the leader of the Free World?
"He's one of the great hucksters, and I say that admiringly. He's using this idea of running, milking it, for all it's worth -- and it's worth a lot," said former New York City mayor Ed Koch.
"It keeps his name out there, which he is very happy to do. There's nothing wrong with it, nothing immoral. But he's not running. He knows it. Everyone else knows it," Koch said.
Trump insists he's serious, but experts in branding and politics are dubious, saying the art of this deal for The Donald is simple: gaining favorable exposure.
It's not that he needs fame. Trump already is one of the most well-known people on the planet. Rather, they said, flirting with an idea of a presidential campaign helps to burnish the Trump name, the foundation of his business.
The importance of that name is clear from his company's Website, which promotes an expanding galaxy of Trump-named products from condominiums, casinos and golf courses, to chocolates, neckties, eyewear, tea and even a bottled water, Trump Ice. "Welcome to the World of Trump, the global superbrand," the Website proclaims.
Trump's "business is his own persona, and the brand he can build around that persona," said Jacob Cohen, a senior strategist with the branding firm of Wolff Olins in New York.
"He's got the image of someone who's going to make the big move, going to make the big statement. … It's being true to his brand to have that ambition, to seek that attention, that role of being president," Olins said.
Adds Scott Galloway, a professor of marketing at New York University's Stern School of Business: "Trump is in the business of celebrity. He's famous. He's an iconic figure. ... Awareness of his brand, hopefully a positive awareness of his brand, is his business. Trump exploring running for president, if he doesn't make a mockery of it, only adds to the celebrity and the positive associations."
Trump previously pondered a presidential bid in 1988 and again in 1999, when he actually tested a possible candidacy atop the Reform Party's ticket. He made a 12-hour campaign-style swing through Miami, his stiletto-wearing model-girlfriend Melania – now his third wife – at his side. After follow-up trips to Los Angeles and Hartford, Conn., Trump dropped the idea.
The flirtation this time around includes a YouTube channel and a glitzy Website, shouldtrumprun.com.
"Are you one of the many frustrated Americans sick and tired of hearing the same old mundane political campaign promises?" the website asks. "Empty promises echo across the nation every four years; stringing us along as we wait for something good to finally happen. Well it is finally here, and it is real. It is DONALD J. TRUMP."