WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump has been telling people for nearly three decades that he is what they really need in the White House — a business-hardened deal-maker in chief.
Now that he is running for president, Trump gets to say it Thursday night from center stage and in prime time as the top-polling candidate in the first Republican presidential debate of the 2016 campaign.
A guide to the say-anything candidate.
TRUMP IS 'REALLY RICH'
Most everyone knows Trump is, as he puts it, "really rich."
Politicians tend to play down the wealth that separates them from most in the United States. Trump, on the other hand, has long been accused of inflating his figures — and even the size of his debt when he nearly went bust in the 1990s — for dramatic effect.
"A little hyperbole never hurts," Trump wrote in his 1987 book, "The Art of the Deal." ''People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular."
Trump says he is worth about $10 billion. The wealth-trackers at Forbes magazine say $4 billon. The Bloomberg Billionaires Index puts him at $2.9 billion.
Much of the difference stems from disagreement over the value Trump assigns to his famous name. He emblazons across skyscrapers, resorts and golf courses, but also leases it out to brand other people's properties and products. Trump says his name alone is worth more than $3 billion.
Based on the imprecise financial disclosures required of federal candidates, it's safe to say Trump is a billionaire, and far wealthier than the last Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, or year's Democratic front-runner, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Trump says that unlike the other candidates, he will not be beholden to campaign donors. "I don't need anybody's money. I'm using my own money."
BUILDING THE FAMILY BUSINESS
Trump's father got him started in real estate. "I learned so much just sitting at his feet playing with blocks listening to him negotiate with subcontractors," Trump said in June as he announced he was running for president.
Fred C. Trump built and owned thousands of rental apartments and townhouses in the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. The family estimated his worth at between $250 million and $300 million when he died in 1999.
A natural showman, Donald Trump says he was drawn to the glamour of a movie-making career as a young man. But he decided going into the family business would be smarter.
He worked for his father while earning an economics degree at the University of Pennsylvania. By the time he graduated college in 1968, Trump says he was worth about $200,000 — more than $1 million in today's dollars.
Trump, 69, says he ignored his father's advice by venturing into the big leagues of Manhattan real estate, where he made his fortune. He remembers telling his father: "I gotta build those big buildings. I gotta do it, Dad."
TRUMP AT HOME
"The Donald" of splashy 1980s and 1990s tabloid fame is a grandpa now. He has had two highly publicized divorces, three wives, five children and seven grandchildren.
The Trump brood:
—three grown children — Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric — from his first marriage, to Ivana Trump. All are married and working as executives in their father's business. Donald Jr. has five children; Ivanka has two.
—college-age daughter Tiffany, born to second wife Marla Maples, is an aspiring singer who has followed her father's footsteps to the University of Pennsylvania.
—his youngest child, 9-year-old Barron, is the son of Trump's current wife, Melania.
"I think I'm a nice person. Does my family like me? I think so," Trump said at his campaign announcement.
PAST RUNS FOR PRESIDENT
Trump flirted with the idea of running for president as far back as 1987, when a New Hampshire Republican activist started a "draft Trump" campaign.
Trump did not run, but gave a teaser speech previewing the pitch he still uses today — that virtually all U.S. politicians are incompetent and only he, as a master negotiator, can outfox foreign leaders. It's a theme he often has come back to.
"Our leaders are stupid. They're stupid people. It's just very, very sad," Trump said in a profanity-laced speech at a Las Vegas casino, hinting at a 2012 presidential run that did not happen.
Ahead of the 2000 election, Trump took it up a notch with a political book, "The America We Deserve," laying out a mix of liberal and conservative views: He called for universal health care, supported abortion rights with some restrictions and endorsed tougher criminal sentences and the death penalty.
He briefly pursued the nomination of the Reform Party, created by billionaire Ross Perot, but backed out, blaming the rickety third party's infighting.
Trump has mused publicly about joining every presidential race since, and floated the idea of running for governor of New York.
He acted like he meant it in 2011, unleashing a new, more-conservative political book, bashing President Barack Obama's health care law, questioning whether Obama was born in the U.S., and giving countless speeches and interviews.
But that May, Trump announced that while months of unofficial campaigning had convinced him that he could win the White House, his heart was in his business, including hosting the reality TV show "Celebrity Apprentice."
CAMPAIGN'S COST TO HIS CELEBRITY
In a Republican field with many senators and governors, only Trump can boast a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His celebrity status — cultivated for years as billionaire-about-town, author of get-rich-like-me books, and star of his two "Apprentice" shows — has helped him leap to the front of primary polls.
Forays into politics are usually good for promoting one's personal brand. But this time Trump has taken some financial hits.
His remarks characterizing Mexicans crossing into the U.S. illegally as criminals, drug dealers and rapists sparked an angry backlash, prompting NBC to drop its broadcasts of the Miss Universe and Miss USA beauty pageants, which were a joint venture between the TV network and the billionaire.
Spanish-language network Univision refused to broadcast Miss USA. OraTV, a company backed by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, said it was ending a project under development with Trump.
The PGA moved its Grand Slam of Golf out of Trump's Los Angeles golf course. Macy's stopped selling Trump-branded shirts and ties. Serta dumped a Trump mattress.
Trump already had agreed that while running for president he would stop appearing on "Celebrity Apprentice" to bark "You're Fired!"
TRUMP ON THE STUMP
Trump is quick to label any critic a "moron" or "loser" or "dummy."
More creatively, after Sen. John McCain accused him of pandering to their party's "crazies," Trump suggested that being tortured and held prisoner of war for five years in Vietnam does not qualify the Arizona senator as a war hero. "I like people who weren't captured," Trump said.
When Sen. Lindsey Graham, a fellow GOP presidential candidate, said Trump was being "the world's biggest jackass," Trump responded by calling Graham an "idiot" and giving out the South Carolina senator's private cellphone number to a crowd of supporters and TV cameras.
Lately Trump has taken to warning fellow Republicans that if they do not behave as he wishes during the primary campaign, he will quit the GOP and wage a third-party presidential bid, widely seen as a dream scenario for the Democrats. "If I'm treated poorly," he said, "I will do it."