What has Trump's presidential flirtation meant for "The Apprentice" ratings?

Donald Trump attends the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays on Sept. 23, 2010, at Yankee Stadium in New York. Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Donald Trump's recent media blitz seems to have convinced Republican voters he could make a fine Republican presidential candidate, but will it hurt his television show, "The Apprentice"?

Chris Chocola, president of the influential conservative group Club for Growth, taunted both Trump's presidential ambitions and his television show this week, saying in a statement that Trump's possible foray into politics amounts to a "publicity stunt [that] will sputter and disappear just as quickly as the 'The Apprentice' is losing viewers."

As it turns out, Hotsheet has learned, "The Apprentice" has lost viewers in recent weeks. It's probably too early, however, to draw any connections between Trump's recent political posturing and his show's success -- if it could ever be possible.

Trump has said since last year that he is considering running for the Republican presidential nomination, but he won the media spotlight in late March by embracing the "birther" question of whether President Obama was born in the U.S. Ratings for the "The Apprentice" rose immediately following that moment, but have since started to fall, according to data from The Nielsen Company.

Ratings for "The Apprentice" rose from 9 million on March 20 to 9.5 million on March 27. On March 24, Trump sparred with Whoopi Goldberg on ABC's "The View" over the "birther" issue.

Ratings climbed even higher on April 3 to more than 9.7 million viewers. Over the next two weeks, however, ratings fell. On April 10, 8.2 million viewers tuned in, and on April 17, 7.6 million watched "The Apprentice."

The drop in ratings corresponded with polls showing Trump's rise in popularity among Republican voters; a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released April 12 had Trump tied for first place for the GOP nomination.

While Trump's recent media exposure and presidential flirtation don't appear to be helping his show, they aren't necessarily hurting it. The situation brings to mind the response to Oprah Winfrey's endorsement of Mr. Obama in the 2008 presidential campaign, when questions were raised about the impact on her television show's ratings. Some media analysis suggested the connections were negligible.

Amid widespread skepticism, Trump has, at least, insisted he isn't running for president to earn ratings for his television program.

"I don't need to [run for president] for ratings on 'The Apprentice,'" he said in a recent interview. "This is too important, our country is in trouble, our country is not being properly led."

The TV personality and real estate magnate has said, however, he may make an announcement related to his political future on the season finale of "The Apprentice."

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