Donald Trump became enthralled with the presidency while watching balloons drop for George H.W. Bush at the 1988 Republican National Convention.
The celebrity real estate developer had been taken to New Orleans by his longtime pal Roger Stone, a Republican political operative hoping to spark an interest in Trump to run for the presidency, reported Politico.
“I got the definite impression that Roger Stone was preparing Donald Trump to run for president,” said Michael Caputo, a Stone associate who worked for Trump’s 2016 campaign. “I didn’t know when it would be — but it was very clear to me that he wasn’t there for the cocktails.”
Trump made the rounds speaking to TV and newspaper reporters, boasting that “everybody” wanted him to run for president — which he was confident he could successfully pull off — but insisting he had no interest in doing so.
“I’m here because I’m a guest of Vice President Bush,” Trump told CNN’s Larry King. “I won’t be running for president.”
But that all changed after Stone got him onstage for Bush’s nomination celebration.
“My friend Laury — Laurance Gay — Laury got a call from Roger: ‘Hey, there’s a young business guy who wants to be on the floor,’” recalled Republican strategist Alex Castellanos. “‘He wants to be there when the balloons drop, the confetti falls, the band strikes up. He wants to see all that.’”
Gay recalled the scene years later, saying Trump was enchanted by the pageantry of Bush reciting the Pledge of Allegiance as his wife and family joined him on the podium with running mate Dan Quayle.
“So we went down there, and the speeches were made,” Gay recalled, “and there’s 25 people out there, and with that, the band strikes up, the confetti starts to fall, the balloons are rising and falling.”
Trump wanted that all for himself, Gay said.
“This is what I want,” he said to no one in particular.
Gay asked what he’d said, and Trump looked at him and repeated himself.
“This,” he said again, “is what I want.”
“Those were his exact words, I will never forget them,” Gay said. “‘This is what I want’ — and at that point, there was only one thing in mind that he could’ve wanted, which was to be president of the United States. I mean, he wanted to be up on that stage.”