Exactly what is Trump trying to accomplish? Does this guy really want to be the Republican nominee? I'm honestly not sure. At the very least, he's trying to shape the campaign. Trump sees a scattered field of Republicans and everyone has their faults. The mainstream candidates (Romney & Pawlenty) bore the hell out of everyone. All the other candidates are way too far to the right which would help Trump if he goes independent.
The flip flop for him on abortion is intriguing. All of a sudden he's pro-life. After decades of being pro-choice and liberal leaning on most social issues, Trump changed his mind because one of his buddies had a baby. At first, the guy didn't want a child but now "couldn't imagine his life without that bundle of joy." It would be interesting to find out exactly "who this mystery friend is." Why do I have a hunch he just made up this story, albeit not an incredibly complex one. Also, let's hope this "friend of his" doesn't change his mind if one day the kid ends up on one of those wild teen Maury Povich episodes.
I think Trump has this grand vision where he can bypass the usual caucus election process in Iowa. His theory goes something like this. I am Donald Trump. I am a great man. The public deserves to hear all of my opinions due to my superiority. It's a potentially crowded Republican field so I need to differentiate myself from the rest. So I'll throw everything I can at Obama (particularly the birther stuff). The more absurd and outlandish my claims, the more often they'll show polls of how I will fare against the others in the primary. If you say the words "Trump" and "Obama" in the same sentence enough times, the casual observer sees this air of inevitability. It has the mentality of a UFC marquee match on pay-per-view.
Trump knows one thing. The activist Republican base in Iowa trends hardcore conservative on social issues. The stance on abortion is a huge deal. If you're not pro-life, it's a deal breaker. So he flipped. It has nothing to do with this "friend of his" who saw the light. That's complete bullshit and needs to be exposed. Regardless, Trump will not run a traditional campaign in Iowa which involves a heavy ground campaign. You really have to be organized at the community level. And parading around in that monster TRUMP 747 likely won't sit well with rural Midwest Iowa voters. Trump just wants as much tv coverage as is humanly possible. He could care less about actual policy positions. He has one overriding goal - remain relevant.
Trump wants all these polls to say one thing repeatedly. He wants pitted against all the other candidates. If Donald Trump were running in the Republican primary, would you vote for him instead of the anyone from the Republican field. This is imperative. Frame everything.
I have a hunch about Trump. I think he wants to linger on the sidelines. Perhaps he'll bitch up a storm about being excluded from the debates. Perhaps launch a phony campaign of "public outrage" that he's not allowed to participate. Clamor incessantly about how this is "not the kind of America" where I come from. This is a wise move as it pits him against the entire Republican field. It's Trump against a bunch of dull, fuddy duddy white guys. It also bodes well for an anti-media campaign. Blame the media for everything which worked pretty damn well for Palin the buffoon.
This could be an effective strategy. He can stand on the sidelines and rip apart all the candidates without being interrogated in the debates. Every news channel will salivate at the prospect of having him provide "analysis." Again, this places him in a very advantageous position.
My hunch is that most voters will tire of the Republican debates. They'll all be preaching the identical anti-Obama rhetoric and towing the line on traditional Republican issues (tax cuts, creating jobs, social issues, Reagan is my role model). Trump steps in at the end - "How could anybody vote for any of these guys? I'm the only credible option."
I suspect after the dust settles and the Republicans have chosen a nominee (Romney), Trump might go the Independent rout. But that's only if his polls tell him to go for it. If gas is $5.00/gallon, he might have a decent shot. Personally, I can't stand Trump. His quest to have that massive ego placated is completely nauseating. Nonetheless, his overall strategy makes sense.
Frame everything as The Donald vs. Obama. Complain that the media and govt. don't want you in the debates, because they're afraid of the prospect of a Trump presidency. It would just be too dangerous to the establishment. In the meantime, you excoriate all the other Republican candidates and force them to respond to pointed questions. Trump attacks, all others try to defend themselves. Then, you have this alleged "Draft Trump for President" movement suddenly start popping up all over the place.
His goal above all else - remain a constant in the news cycle. Bypass the nuts and bolts of the primaries. Strictly employ a general election strategy. And you can still pull out the newest birther evidence shit on a prime time news special to coincide with your presidential bid. Do I like Trump in the slightest? Nope. I can't stand him and others of his ilk (I've known numerous blowhards with insatiable egos). Ohhh, and always keep the press guessing up until the last possible moment. Will I run? Will I not run? Just make sure to keep everyone speculating. Whether it's positive or negative is irrelevant. All in all, I think Trump has a good plan. And it would only work for one person... and that's him. Could he pull it off - doubtful. But it's his best course of action. And he knows it.