Trump: 'I do not want to run as a third party candidate'

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"If the wrong candidate is nominated to run — if I think it's a candidate that's not going to win and not very good, and that could happen, I guess … I would certainly think about running as an independent," said Trump.

But Trump now seems prepared to endorse a Republican candidate. The television personality and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich met Monday in Manhattan; Trump has met with a majority of the Republican field, including Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry — along with Sarah Palin and Herman Cain, who have dropped out of consideration.

"Almost every major candidate has come to my office, met privately with me and has sought my endorsement," Trump said. "I have told them what I have said publicly. I will support the Republican candidate best able to defeat Barack Obama and the one who shares the values of most Americans: a strong belief in the free enterprise system and an unwavering commitment to a strong America."

Trump went on to describe the debate, scheduled for Dec. 27, as "a fantastic opportunity to vet these candidates," and promised an endorsement following the meeting. Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul have already signaled that they will not be attending the debate, arguing that Trump delegitimizes the process.