In dropping bid, Trump criticizes Reform Party


Tuesday, February 15th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


Developer says he 'can't rule out' 2004 campaign


The Donald ended his romance with the Reform Party's presidential nomination Monday but remains The Flirt for the future.

Removing himself as a potential third-party candidate in 2000, real estate developer Donald Trump said in a statement released in New York on Monday that he "cannot rule out a possible candidacy in 2004."

He also left open the possibility of endorsing a major party candidate and returning to the mainstream fold. Mr. Trump quit the Republican Party to explore a third-party candidacy in October.

For now, he said on NBC-TV's Today Show on Monday, the Reform Party is "a mess."

"It's self-destructing," he said, pointing to the exit of his mentor, Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, from the national party on Friday.

New national Chairman Pat Choate, meanwhile, argued that "the party is actually

"As for 2004, I tell him [Mr. Trump] now, he is unwelcome in this party," said Mr. Choate, who was the Reform Party's vice-presidential nominee in 1996.

Mr. Trump's decision leaves former Republican Pat Buchanan as the front-runner for the Reform nomination and its $12.6 million in federal funds, earned by Ross Perot's candidacy in 1996.

Mr. Buchanan said the party dispute would not hurt his candidacy. "Two weeks from now, a month from now, that's going to be ancient history," he said.

Mr. Perot has refused to say whether he might run again. His spokesman, Russ Verney, returning a phone call placed to Mr. Perot on Monday, said that Mr. Perot "continues to have full faith in members of the Reform Party to make the right collective judgments."

Mr. Buchanan said Mr. Perot "would be a formidable challenger for the nomination" but that "we would go right ahead with our campaign."

Mr. Choate relinquished his position as Mr. Buchanan's co-chairman to become Reform Party chairman in a coup d'etat Saturday in Nashville, in which the party's national committee deposed Ventura ally Jack Gargan.

Mr. Choate said the "chaos" in the party was created by Mr. Ventura in an attempt to keep Mr. Buchanan from becoming the party's nominee.

Regarding Mr. Trump, he said, "His campaign was never a campaign. He did four cocktail parties and dozens of interviews promoting the Trump casinos and Trump trademark."

He suggested Mr. Trump should pay the media millions of dollars because "he hustled free time out of them in a promotion swindle," a charge Mr. Trump denied.

Mr. Trump said on the Today Show that he could never support Mr. Buchanan and that one major party candidate "very much wants my endorsement." So far, he has referred to GOP candidate George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore as "Gush" and "Bore."

But his friend, Mr. Ventura, has praised Republican John McCain as a true reformer, and some Reform Party activists have indicated an interest in supporting Mr. McCain instead of Mr. Buchanan.

Mr. McCain has said he would not seek the Reform Party endorsement but would welcome their support if he is the GOP nominee.