By Geneva Sands - 12/05/11 03:28 PM EST
Celebrity businessman and real estate mogul Donald Trump on Monday said he wouldn't rule out an independent bid for the White House in 2012.
"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 on NBC's "Today" show.
Trump, the host of NBC's reality show "The Apprentice," shot to the top of GOP presidential polls in April, but ruled out a presidential bid in May, citing a passion for business over politics.
Since that decision, Trump has remained a prominent voice in the Republican primary process, holding private meetings with Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin. On Monday, front-runner Newt Gingrich will visit Trump Towers to meet with the billionaire.
The conservative media outlet Newsmax said last week it had selected Trump to host a Republican debate on Dec. 27 in Des Moines, Iowa.
GOP candidates Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman declined to participate in the debate after Trump was announced as the moderator.
“The selection of a reality television personality to host a presidential debate that voters nationwide will be watching is beneath the office of the presidency and flies in the face of that office’s history and dignity,” Ron Paul 2012 National Campaign Chairman Jesse Benton said.
Trump dismissed Paul and Huntsman as “joke candidates” and said he doesn't believe either has a chance of winning the Republican nomination.
"I think that they are joke candidates, and they are doing very poorly … frankly, it gives more air time to people that really have a chance of getting elected," Trump said of their non-participation.
Trump predicted that the other GOP hopefuls will participate in his Iowa event.
"A lot of the Republicans, top Republicans asked me to do the debate. I think it will get tremendous ratings," Trump said.
Gingrich was the only candidate as of Monday morning to confirm participation in the Newsmax debate.
"I think one of the reasons he's surging — I mean he's like a rocket ship — is because of the fact that he says it like it is," Trump said of Gingrich.
Trump said he is surprised that Romney has not been able to maintain front-runner status in the GOP field.
"He's a very attractive guy. I've gotten to know him very well. He's been up to the office a number of times and he really is a very good, solid person, and he doesn't get traction, and I've actually spoken to him about it. I don't understand. He doesn't get traction," he said.