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V I T A L  S T A T S

[Steve Forbes]

Steve Forbes

PARTY: Republican
BIRTH DATE: July 18, 1947
HOMETOWN: Morristown, NJ
FAMILY: Married to Sabina Forbes; 5 daughters
RELIGION: Presbyterian
EDUCATION: Princeton University, B.A. (1970)
CURRENT JOB: President and CEO, Forbes, Inc.; Editor-in-Chief, FORBES Magazine (1990-present)
AFFILIATIONS: Princeton University Trustees (Board Member); Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation (Board Member); American Enterprise Institute (Board Member); Chairman, Board for International Broadcasting (1985-93)
BIGGEST PLUS: Clear Message
BIGGEST MINUS: Lack of political experience
CAMPAIGN HEADQUARTERS: P.O. Box 1009; Bedminister, NJ 07921; (800) 820-6300

Q U I C K  T A K E

The most unabashed and optimistic voice of free market capitalism emerged from millionaire publisher Malcolm S. Forbes Jr. when he announced his candidacy for the GOP nomination last September. Eldest son of the late publishing mogul, the younger Forbes, known as Steve, took over as editor-in-chief of Forbes Magazine in 1990. While he has eschewed the extravagant showmanship of his father, he nonetheless has maintained Forbes Magazine's position as the industry leader in advertising sales while increasing circulation by more than 40,000 since 1992. Bookish and prone to wonkery, Forbes is active on the speaker circuit. His political experience, however, does not go beyond his service as Chairman of the Board of International Broadcasting for Reagan and Bush and an advisory role for his longtime friend, New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman. But in an era that celebrates the outsider, Forbes and his coterie of Wall Street financiers and supply side economic theoreticians are playing his "outside the beltway" background as an asset. Decrying Washington's current fixation on budget cutting, Forbes worships at the alter of growth and trumpets the Reagan-era mantra of tax cuts and deregulation. "It's time to revive the dead weight of Washington and let the economy run free," he declares. Pursuing a strategy that would send most political consultants for cover, Forbes has made the elimination of the capital gains tax, a 17% flat tax, and a return to the gold standard the centerpieces of his platform. On abortion, gay rights, TV violence, and other social issues that have sent most Republican candidates lurching rightward, Forbes is affably laissez-faire. But does a shy, mega-rich, New York intellectual with no political machine stand a chance of capturing mainstream America's imagination? Many of his closest friends and admirers think not. But since he is willing to spend $25 million of his own fortune, Steve Forbes, like Ross Perot, can count on being heard, at least in the short term.

H O W  H E ' S  D O I N G

Forbes withdrew from the race on March 14, and endorsed Sen. Robert Dole (R-Kan.). After strong showings in early polls, Forbes and his centerpiece 17 percent, no deductions flat tax proposal rocketed to superstar status, profiled in major newsweeklies (including TIME) and covered extensively on the airwaves. In the spotlight, Forbes was heavily criticized by his rivals, both for his tax proposal and his lavish spending on advertising (much of it negative). Then, poor showings in Iowa and New Hampshire took the wind out of his sails. He rebounded somewhat with wins in Delaware and, more imporantly, Arizona, and enthusiastically predicted his campaign would restart with a win in New York, where Forbes spent lavishly just to get on the ballot. That head-to-head contest, which Dole won handily, was the deathblow to Forbes' outsider campaign. Though he stuck around for another week, dismal showings on Super Tuesday convinced the publisher the time had come to pull the plug on his self-financed campaign. Ever upbeat, Forbes rightly took credit for bringing the issue of radical tax reform to the campaign spotlight, and offering a well-articulated appeal for a return to Reaganesque optimism and laissez-faire economics. His effort was more than a rich man's folly, but it remains to be seen how much impact Forbes will ultimately have on the 1996 GOP race in return for the $25-plus million he spent.

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