Donald Trump endorses Mitt Romney

Liz Goodwin
The Ticket

Inserting himself back into the presidential race, Donald Trump managed on Wednesday night and Thursday morning to get the nation's major news organizations in a tangle about whether he would endorse Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich during a Thursday afternoon appearance in Las Vegas.

Just before 4 p.m. ET on Thursday, Trump appeared with Mitt Romney and his wife for a very brief news conference.

"It's my honor, real honor, and privilege to endorse Mitt Romney," Trump said. "He's not going to allow bad things to continue to happen to this country that we all love. So Governor Romney, go out and get 'em." You can watch video of the endorsement above.

Romney and Trump shook hands. "There are some things you can't imagine in life and this is one of them," Romney said as he took the podium and recited a stump speech.

The short to-do was in marked contrast to the circus-like atmosphere in the lead up to the endorsement. The Donald caused quite a bit of confusion yesterday when he issued a statement saying he would be making a "major announcement" about the race. The Associated Press and the New York Times reported late Wednesday night that Trump would be endorsing Newt Gingrich, citing sources close to the former Speaker's campaign. Dozens of news outlets picked up on the story.

But Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report contradicted the Gingrich reports today, blasting on his website that Trump's endorsement would actually go for Romney. CNN political director Mark Preston also reported a Romney endorsement this morning, citing unnamed sources. The Times and the AP have since published stories saying the nod would go to Romney.

Earlier Thursday afternoon, Trump confirmed in a mini-news conference that he was, in fact, endorsing Romney. As reporters knocked over chairs to get to the real estate magnate/reality star, Trump said he'd decided to back Romney because he liked his positions on China and OPEC. Reminded that he had not always said nice things about the ex-governor, Trump replied, "I didn't know him then."

Asked if this means his own White House aspirations are now over, Trump said unequivocally that he will not run as an independent or third party candidate in the fall if Romney is the nominee.

"Absolutely not," he vowed.  He then turned and walked away. "See you in a few hours," he said.

The former Massachusetts governor has not always been so eager for a photo op with Trump. When Romney, along with the other 2012 contenders, trekked to New York last year to woo Trump, the candidate snuck in and out of a side entrance and refused to be photographed with the mogul. Romney also refused Trump's offer to join him for a Trump-moderated Iowa debate in December, saying his campaign schedule was too busy. Gingrich, on the other hand, agreed to attend.

Trump's endorsement may not be a boon to Romney. In December, Trump's favorability rating was only 40 percent in polls, and he spent much of last spring questioning the validity of Barack Obama's birth certificate. President Obama's team is apparently banking on Trump's move hurting Romney. The president's twitter feed linked to a video of Trump's endorsement with the note "In case you missed it."

Holly Bailey contributed to this report.

Update: This piece has been updated to include information about the endorsement press conference.

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