Steve Forbes kept putting his best foot forward in recent years in order to spread the gospel of supply-side tax cuts, and free-market policy solutions to unfinished agenda items such as health care, education, Social Security retirement accounts and other areas. Forbes was also steadfast in his campaign in favor of life, where he was an unyielding supporter of abolishing Roe v. Wade and protecting the rights of the unborn. The former Reagan appointee was always a staunch believer in the merits of free trade, unfettered technological entrepreneurship, a strong dollar and a global message of growth and prosperity.
As for his presidential ambition — this year at least — it was not to be. The media was never willing to give Forbes his due. And when the John McCain tornado came virtually out of nowhere it became even more difficult for Steve to showcase his message.
He never gave up. He has been on the run almost constantly since 1996. He was even willing to spend a sizeable chunk of his own fortune to do it. But that is, of course, what freedom is all about. And no one in this race has a stronger belief in freedom than Steve Forbes.
Now that he has pulled out, the question is which of his two remaining opponents will attempt to claim the 30% support Forbes had in Iowa, the near 15% he polled in New Hampshire and the 20% he notched in last night’s Delaware primary. More or less, Forbes can count about 15-20% of Republicans, most of whom could be considered grass-roots conservative Republicans. The support from those kinds of folks in the November election will be absolutely vital if either George Bush or John McCain is to upend Al Gore.
Senior Forbes staff tell me that while he is not likely to endorse anyone in the near term, Forbes has positive views of John McCain — despite the wide gulf that separates the two on taxes and debt reduction. Forbes admires McCain’s independent, anti-Washington stand, and thinks there could be an opening for true Social Security reform through privately-owned retirement accounts in the McCain policy message.
Senior McCain strategist Vin Weber tells me that “in a general way, at the level of policy, discussions between McCain and Forbes people have been going on.” More on all this will be revealed in the days and weeks ahead, but I for one do not believe Forbes’ contribution is over. With the exception of McCain, every other Republican candidate had either broad-based tax reduction, or more radical flat tax or sales tax reform. Even Pat Buchanan, now departed from the GOP but actively seeking the Reform nomination, has become an active proponent of Forbesian tax reform.
What’s more, including John McCain, all the Republican hopefuls support medical savings accounts, education vouchers and savings accounts, and private retirement accounts for Social Security. In this significant way, the GOP today is much different than it was four years ago. Give Steve Forbes credit. He’s earned it.