Philip Maddocks: Trump names celebrity replacement for him in 2012 presidential race
Donald Trump, the real estate mogul and reality television host, said he has selected Ashton Kutcher, one of the former stars of the sitcom “That 70’s Show,” as his celebrity replacement on the campaign trail.
Mr. Trump, who announced this week that he would not seek the presidential nomination, called Mr. Kutcher the type of refreshing celebrity with broad political appeal that only someone as brilliant as Donald Trump would think to introduce into the race. Mr. Trump predicted that, with him no longer campaigning for the presidency, the actor would quickly vault to the top of polls among likely voters and moviegoers.
Political observers seemed to agree. They said the future of the 2012 Republican presidential primary had been thrown into turmoil after Mr. Trump and former governor and current television celebrity Mike Huckabee, a 2008 candidate, both said they would not run, leaving the Republican race devoid of any television stars.
But in stepped Mr. Trump to get the party back on its star track. The negotiations for a celebrity replacement for Mr. Trump became one of the most closely watched events in political circles, and a number of famous names were floated as candidates, including those of actors Jon Voigt, Robin Williams, and Anthony Hopkins, all of whom have appeared on screen as a president.
Mr. Trump said he ultimately settled on Mr. Kutcher, who will replace Charlie Sheen on CBS’ “Two and a Half Men,” because “anyone with the guts to do that has what it takes to run the country and probably watches my show.”
Mr. Trump said voters shouldn’t be troubled by Mr. Kutcher’s lack of onscreen presidential experience.
“He’s played a teenager and a young adult, so he knows what voters are talking about. He is aware of their concerns and their tastes in celebrity merchandise. That’s what you want out of your leader. Looking presidential onscreen is the easy part,” he said.
Mr. Trump said he wasn’t troubled by Mr. Kutcher’s recent decision to join the cast of CBS’ “Two and a Half Men,” saying that the producers of Mr. Trump’s NBC show had no problem with him choosing someone employed by a rival network to replace him in the race for president.
When asked about his own presidential ambition, Mr. Trump said, “It’s on hiatus.” A Trump spokesman explained that the 2012 presidential campaign “doesn’t meet our standards and our standards are very high.”
The selection of Mr. Kutcher had been rumored since Monday, when Mr. Trump instructed the actor to signal his followers on Twitter with the cryptic message “How many degrees does 4.71238898 radians equal?” (The answer: 270, or the number of electoral votes needed to win the presidency.)
Mr. Trump’s NBC show, “Celebrity Apprentice,” issued a news release on Monday hailing Mr. Trump’s selection of Mr. Kutcher as “multitalented” and “visionary.”
Though effusive in its praise for Mr. Trump — stating America “is so lucky to have someone as joyful and just plain remarkable” as the “Celebrity Apprentice” star — the show’s release offered no specifics on how Mr. Kutcher, who won’t turn 35 until February 2013, would be able to legally assume the presidency.
However, Mr. Trump, speaking at Monday’s event for the broadcast networks to preview their fall lineups, did address those concerns, dismissing such questions as symptomatic of the type of thinking that has weakened America’s competitiveness and he demanded to see the long-form Constitution where the age minimum for presidents is stipulated.
“It makes me wonder what our Founding Fathers were trying to hide,” he said.
Mr. Trump, who said he has been weighing Mr. Kutcher’s bid for the White House day and night for the last few days, said he planned to huddle with the actor in the coming weeks to plot their strategy. He said he sees a lot of opportunity for both to zealously cash in on the Trump name, perhaps through some sort of licensing agreement.
“I think that voters will find that we are talking about the things that really concern me,” said Mr. Trump, “and I expect that they will learn from that.”
Philip Maddocks can be reached at email@example.com.