Donald Trump launched a bid for the White House Tuesday with trademark braggadocio, saying the business sense that earned him billions could also rescue America's "brand" and restore its standing in the world.
"We need somebody that can take the brand of the United States and make it great again," the real estate magnate and reality TV star said in an announcement at Manhattan's Trump Tower.
In the building's marble-paneled atrium, Trump described China, Mexico and Japan as economic competitors and vowed to return jobs from those countries and beyond. "When was the last time anybody saw us beating, let's say, China in a trade deal? They kill us. I beat China all the time," he said.
"The greatest social program is a job," Trump said in a rambling, 45-minute speech. "I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created."
Trump, 69, becomes the 12th candidate so far this year to seek the Republican nomination in 2016. The host of NBC's "The Apprentice," with a net worth he described as being more than $8 billion, gave an assessment of America's troubles that was characteristically blunt and showed no evident concern over who might be offended.
In the first three minutes, he said immigrants "with lots of problems" were crossing the border from Mexico. "They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists," Trump said, tempering the statement with "Some, I assume, are good people."
To stop illegal immigration, Trump vowed "I would built a great wall -- and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I build them very inexpensively -- I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will have Mexico pay for that wall."
Trump in the past has been vocal in sharing the belief of conspiracy theorists that President Barack Obama was not really born in the United States. Tuesday, he stuck to policy attacks, condemning the Democrat's Affordable Care Act as a "great lie."
Trump said he would roll back the health care act in 2017, when "Obama's going to be out playing golf. He might even be on one of my courses. I would invite him. I have the best courses in the world."
Trump, whose wife and children joined him on stage after his announcement, said as a candidate he would not be indebted to anyone.
"It's nice. I don't need anybody's money. I'm using my own money," he said, promising a self-financed campaign. "I'm not using the lobbyists. I'm not using donors. I don't care. I'm really rich."
He held up a two-page financial summary that showed his net worth as $8.7 billion.
Trump must file a more detailed official financial disclosure report with the Federal Election Commission within a month of his campaign announcement.
The filings and his poll numbers are two conditions of his eligibility for debates. His 4 percent rating in a Washington Post/ABC News poll last month put him at 4 percent -- tied for ninth place, which would make the cut.
That poll also showed Trump with a 16 percent favorability rating, with 71 percent of people surveyed reporting an unfavorable impression of him.
The Democratic National Committee Tuesday offered a tongue-in-cheek response to his candidacy: "He adds some much-needed seriousness that has previously been lacking from the GOP field."
Veteran Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf said Trump could well siphon attention from other hopefuls in the crowded Republican field.
"Generally, in situations where there's no incumbent, the insurgent tends to be very important," Sheinkopf said. "Donald Trump is an insurgent."
He added: "Let's see how many states he qualified in for primary elections, and then you'll know whether you've got a candidate or not."
A few hundred spectators wearing identical T-shirts with Trump's campaign slogan over their street clothes leaned in over the building's balconies, with a handful occasionally shouting their support. Many said they were handed the T-shirts as they were ushered into the rally. (Trump said "thousands" were in attendance.)
Lou Nascone, 55, of Bayville, New Jersey, said Trump's message resonated with him as a fellow businessman. "We've got to bring business back to America," he said, adding that "everything" seems to be made in China.