This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal

On Pennsylvania Avenue, Donald Trump is converting the historic Old Post Office Pavilion into one of his Trump hotels. Now, the real-estate mogul and soon-to-be former star of NBC's reality show The Celebrity Apprentice has his sights set on acquiring another historic building up the street.

Trump will launch a presidential exploratory committee Wednesday, according to a report from The Union Leader in New Hampshire.

While Trump teased the public into believing he wanted to be president over several earlier cycles, this will be the first time he is formally launching an exploratory committee and seriously ramping up staff in early states from South Carolina to Iowa. According to The Union Leader, he has has also chosen not to renew a contract for his "Apprentice" series on NBC. Trump's entry into an already crowded Republican field could mean trouble for the Republican Party's leaders.

Unlike 2012, when a wide range of eccentric candidates from then-Rep. Michele Bachmann to pizza giant Herman Cain enjoyed temporary front-runner status, the crop of 2016 candidates appears much more competitive and serious. With Trump potentially in the race, the chances for the party to go off-message greatly increase. He has come to be known as a walking sound bite in GOP circles—unpredictable, flashy, and unafraid of lighting the party's carefully crafted campaign message on fire.

Trump has been known to go off the rails. At a speech to a conservative audience in February, he once again questioned whether President Obama was born in the United States, saying he still wanted to know whether the president's birth certificate was real.

Trump's fiery politics may have played better in 2008, however. Republicans largely aren't buying it this time around. A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 74 percent of Republican primary voters said they couldn't see themselves supporting Trump.

One potential problem for Trump's rollout is his past reticence to release his tax returns. Given his status as an international business titan, his tax forms would be a gold mine for opposition researchers—on the right and the left.

"Maybe I'm going to do the tax returns when Obama does his birth certificate," Trump said in 2011, soon before the White House actually released the certificate. "I'd love to give my tax returns. I may tie my tax returns into Obama's birth certificate."

More recently, he told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that he would release his tax returns for at least one year, while also promulgating the idea that vaccines can be tied to autism.

"Nobody knows the tax-return business or world better than me. And you have to understand, I'm a businessman, and I work for myself. And I have a phenomenal net worth, and a lot of cash and very little debt, and you'd see that," Trump told Hewitt in February. "I want to pay as little taxes as I can as a private person."

If Trump does go ahead with a serious presidential campaign—which is still a big "if" at this point—releasing his tax returns would allow the public to judge whether his finances are as resplendent as he has said they are.

And if he doesn't turn out to be a serious candidate, there's always more reality TV.

This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.

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