Publishing heir Steve Forbes plans to withdraw from the Republican presidential race today and endorse Bob Dole, giving the front-runner a boost from the party’s supply-side wing as he closes in on the GOP nomination.
Forbes, whose campaign was based largely on his call for national economic growth generated by a proposed 17 percent flat tax, initially wanted to stay in the race until next week to see if he could jump-start his flagging campaign in the Midwest.
But after a meeting Wednesday with advisers in Washington, aides announced Forbes’ plan to quit immediately. Forbes put off the announcement for a day, so he could be joined by his family.
Aides told Forbes he has no chance of defeating Dole in the contests next Tuesday in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin and that continuing the race could prove detrimental to acceptance of his economic proposals by Republicans and the public in general.
Forbes’ departure will leave Pat Buchanan, the conservative columnist-commentator, as Dole’s only major challenger.
Buchanan was defiant as he campaigned in Ohio, whooping during one broadcast interview: “Yoo-hoo, I’m still here.”
“Why give up a battle of ideas simply because you’re behind in delegates?” Buchanan asked on NBC’s “Today.”
“Bob Dole has no ideas, no agenda, no vision,” he said.
Campaigning in Cleveland, Buchanan said he’s staying in the race, because he wants to “give the Republican Party a second chance in this arranged marriage, with which we don’t think they’re terribly happy.”
Buchanan, like Forbes, is winless in the 20 primaries over the last two weeks, including the contests Dole swept Tuesday in seven states.
In the six months he has been in the presidential race, Forbes has poured an estimated $25 million of his inherited magazine publishing fortune into his campaign, much of it into negative ads attacking Dole in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire. The high-water mark of Forbes’ effort was his victory in the Arizona and Delaware primaries last month.
Dole has won 741 of the 996 delegates to the Republican National Convention needed to claim the GOP nomination to challenge President Clinton. That’s almost 10 times that of Dole’s nearest competitor - Forbes, who has 76. Buchanan has 72, according to the latest compilation by The Associated Press.
As a result of Tuesday’s voting, the AP count showed, Clinton has already locked up renomination with 2,154 delegates - eight more than needed for a majority at the party’s convention at Chicago in August.