What happened to Donald Trump's presidential bid? What changed his mind?
—William, Iowa, via the inbox
If I answer this question, can we make a deal? No more questions about Donald Trump? At least until he announces a bid for president of whatever planet his hair is from. Then I shall weigh in with whatever astronomy, or deep-space-physics knowledge is required.
As for Trump's presidential bid, here's what happened behind the scenes:
Many believe that Trump's presidential utterings were just a bunch of hot air from the get go, a bid for ratings or publicity or whatever feeds Trump's Manhattan-sized ego. (The man's biggest talent is saying stuff, after all.)
But I'm told that wasn't the main force behind Trump's pull-out. Neither was his slip in the polls; the roasting he got at the most recent White House Correspondents Dinner (The Donald was not amused); or even a stinging diss by the head of the Republican National Committee.
No, insiders tell me none of that mattered as the insider wheeler-dealing that went down over the past several days.
"He talked to some very high level pollsters and campaign managers about potentially working with him, and they turned him down," says republican strategist Ford O'Connell.
Well, let's start with Republican strategist and former state Rep. Fran Wendelboe, who had been talking with Trump about a collaboration in New Hampshire. Wendelboe had spoken with Trump's own in-house political strategist, Michael Cohen, about making a few appearances there, even scheduling a debate.
But after Trump flaked out of an appearance on a candidate forum program on WMUR-TV, the politico says she lost interest, and told the Trump organization she didn't want to work for him after all.
"I think it really started sinking in about how much of a time constraint it really would have been on him and his family," Wendelboe told the Union-Leader. "And he's thin-skinned. I think he was too thin-skinned to stand the heat."
Indeed. Forget the critiques from strangers. Trump would have to actually set aside his own megalomania and listen to bunches of campaign managers and strategists and other people who actually know how to win a White House.
Those people "weren't convinced that he was really in" the race, O'Connell explains. "They weren't sure how serious he could be about taking cues from campaign managers, staying on message."
One other factor: Trump really, apparently, liked being a reality TV star more than a civil servant.
Wendelboe also told the paper that she believed Trump's decision was influenced by NBC's recent announcement that Celebrity Apprentice would survive just fine without him if he ran for president.
(Originally published May 16, 2011, at 8 p.m. PT)