Don't count Donald Trump out yet: The firebrand businessman says he is still contemplating a run for president if the current horserace doesn't turn out to his liking.
The difference now is that Trump will not resuscitate his earlier run as Republican, but would step in as an independent bound to shake up a race that still appears wide open.
"Anybody would be better than what we have now," he told CNBC. "Assuming the economy continues to be bad, which I think it will because we have at least close to incompetent leadership, if the Republicans would choose the wrong person I would certainly consider running as an independent."
Gauging how serious the chances are that Trump would resume his populist quest for the White Houseis a difficult task.
He seemingly would be prohibited from running because of his lead role in "Celebrity Apprentice," the popular reality show that airs on NBC Universal, owned by CNBC.com-parent Comcast.
However, that obstacle hasn't stopped Trump from toying with a return to the race, where he was running at or near the top of the polls for most of the time he was considered a candidate.
"I said things that somehow resonate. I talked about OPEC, I talked about China, I talked about jobs moving to Mexico," he said. "It's absolutely crazy what this country is doing and we're losing our jobs, we're losing our manufacturing if we haven't already lost it."
Regardless of whether he actually ends up being a declared candidate, he continues to talk like one, or least as the one through whom the other candidates must pass to get to the nomination.
Most recently he has complimented Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has stormed to the top of the polls. He also said he plans to meet former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
But he said he also is concerned that the rest of the field is of varying quality.
"They call me and they want some support," Trump said. "They have some great people and they have some people who shouldn't be running."
Getting the right Republican nominee, he said, is vital for the country to deal with the important issues it faces, including its losing economic battle against China and dealing with trade agreements that put the U.S. at a disadvantage in the global marketplace.
"I'd like to see our current president step up and do a great job for the next year and a half," he said. "I don't think that's going to happen, but I'd like to see it."