WASHINGTON – Donald Trump announced Monday that he will not seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.

"After considerable deliberation and reflection, I have decided not to pursue the office of the Presidency," he said in a statement. "This decision does not come easily or without regret."

Trump claimed that "if I were to run, I would be able to win the primary and ultimately, the general election," but said, "Ultimately, however, business is my greatest passion and I am not ready to leave the private sector."

The real estate mogul surged to the top of the GOP primary polls last month after hammering away about doubts on President Barack Obama's birthplace. But his popularity has taken a steep dive in recent weeks, after the president released his long-form birth certificate.