Was He Fuzzy?
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MARGARET WARNER: Now we speak with Steve Forbes. Welcome, Mr. Forbes.
STEVE FORBES, Republican Presidential Candidate: Nice to be with you.
MARGARET WARNER: Tell us, what has happened to you, and what has happened to your candidacy? Two weeks ago, you were poised to overtake Bob Dole here in New Hampshire.
MR. FORBES: Well, I think that we are out there to get our message across, and Iowa is a caucus state, very heavily organized. We always wanted to finish in the top four. We knew those polls weren’t accurate because they’re almost like primary polls, not caucus polls, so we’re moving ahead, and I think we’re going to make a very good showing in New Hampshire. So our strategy hasn’t changed. We still have our message of growth, inclusiveness, opportunity, and that’s what we’re going to continue with.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, your strategy as changed, as you discussed yesterday, in one respect, which has to do with your advertising. Why have you taken all your negative ads off the air?
STEVE FORBES: Well, we never–we thought that comparing what the candidates said before and after elections was legitimate, but clearly, I spent too much time on my opponents, not enough time on getting my message across, so when mistakes are made the key is to learn from those mistakes. I have, so we’re moving forward on my themes, my subjects to appeal to the voters.
MARGARET WARNER: Why do you think the negative ads did backfire exactly? I mean, what impact do you think they had on voters?
STEVE FORBES: I’m not sure what impact they had on voters. I think in Iowa, there were other factors at work, and also too, when you discuss other opponents, people want to learn more about you. I’m a newcomer in the race, and that’s what I should have done, and that’s what I’m going to do now.
MARGARET WARNER: One key adviser to Lamar Alexander said to me yesterday, you know, after all those negative ads, it’s going to be kind of hard for Steven Forbes–Steve Forbes to go all warm and fuzzy.
STEVE FORBES: Well, I’ve always from the very beginning have had an issue-oriented campaign, all designed to give the American people a chance to get ahead again. I’ve never tried to portray myself as a personality candidate. I’ve never tried to portray myself as something fuzzy and warm. I’ve portrayed myself as a leader with a message of growth to the voters. That’s what I’ve done before. That’s what I’m going to continue to do.
MARGARET WARNER: Okay. So what is it now you want to project to the New Hampshire voters in these last five days?
STEVE FORBES: Just what I’ve been doing since the beginning of the campaign, that I have a vision and a program to get America moving, to return control back to the American people, and whether it’s through taxes, parental choice in education, medical savings accounts, young new Social Security system for young people, those issues, getting America moving, that’s what I–that’s the whole purpose of my campaign.
MARGARET WARNER: Is the flat tax still working for you as an issue?
STEVE FORBES: I think the flat tax as a tax cut does work. The American people know that the current tax code is really a feted swamp of special interest provisions. They want it to go. They know it’s corrosive. They know it’s corrupting.
MARGARET WARNER: Some of the other candidates’ polls, however, are showing that as a proposal, the flat tax has lost appeal to the voters here in New Hampshire.
STEVE FORBES: When voters understand that it is a flat tax with a tax cut, when they understand that they come out again, when they understand that their monthly mortgage payments will be less because interest rates will go down, they become very supportive. With no tax on their personal savings, they realize too it would be easier to put together a nest egg for retirement, for education, for that house. So when they know about it, they support it. And that’s one of the keys of my campaign, is to get that across against the distortions of my opponents.
MARGARET WARNER: And at the same time, though, some of your new ads are emphasizing specific other proposals.
STEVE FORBES: That’s right. Medical savings accounts, which will give Medicare beneficiaries more control, better coverage at less cost, also parental choice in education, we must take education out of the hands of the unions and bureaucrats, return it to the parents. It’s not fair to give our kids less than a superb education so that they have a chance to lead a productive life.
MARGARET WARNER: Let me ask you about religious conservatives, because the Christian right in Iowa, which finds you too liberal on social issues in their view, really went after you and most of the analysis of the voting patterns showed they hurt you there pretty badly. Do you expect them to be a major factor here?
STEVE FORBES: Well, when the leadership of any organization distorts my position, I’m going to hit back. I’m not going to stand still for it. In the case of the Christian Coalition in Iowa, the leadership there, and I emphasize the leadership, distorted my position on abortion. I want to end abortion. My way of achieving it is perhaps different than that of the leadership, but our goals are the same, and just because our approaches are different, there’s no reason to distort my position.
MARGARET WARNER: Let me ask you about one issue that does seem to be perhaps one of the biggest divisions in this race, and that’s the one that separates Pat Buchanan from all the rest of the field. He does seem to be making major headway with his message of economic populism, anti-free trade, anti-corporations taking jobs overseas. Is there a message to your party in the success that he is having?
STEVE FORBES: I think the key is having a message of growth, job creation, returning control to the American people. That’s the way you create jobs. We’ve tried isolationism before. We’ve tried tariffs before. We’ve tried high taxes before, and the American economy has suffered. Jobs by the millions were destroyed. So we know that doesn’t work. The approach of openness, growth, lower taxes, less regulation, more control to the people. That’s the way to move America ahead. That’s the way to create jobs.
MARGARET WARNER: Can you sell that to voters, though, who are responding to Buchanan, who feel they are left behind in this new global economy?
STEVE FORBES: Well, the key is we’re all going to be left behind to one degree or another if we continue to stagnate as we are now. America has the potential to do much, much better than she is doing today. And that’s the key of my campaign. I’ve got proposals to remove these shackles so we can move forward, and then we will have jobs and we’ll have better paying jobs as well.
MARGARET WARNER: And so why do you think Buchanan is gaining with this message of his?
STEVE FORBES: Because the other candidates do not have a pro-growth job creation philosophy and approach, and mine, I do, and that’s why I’m re-emphasizing it here in New Hampshire.
MARGARET WARNER: I’ve noticed in the last few days that Bob Dole is again stressing his leadership and his experience and that even Lamar Alexander is again stressing, is now stressing his experience. Has the outsider theme lost any of its resonance?
STEVE FORBES: Not at all. I think the American people know that if the politicians had the answers, they probably would have enacted them by how. And it’s going to take somebody who has real executive experience, who has real leadership capability, who has to deal with the real world and not promises and processes. It’s true, I don’t have a 25-year resume of elective politics and political appointments, but I do know how government works, and more important, I know how government fails.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you seem, though, locked in this struggle for third place with Lamar Alexander. If I were a New Hampshire voter trying to decide between the two of you, why should I choose you?
STEVE FORBES: I have specific proposals for getting America moving ahead. The voters do want specifics. They don’t want vague generalities.
MARGARET WARNER: I’m not going to get you to be able to talk about Lamar Alexander?
STEVE FORBES: What do you want me to say? Where are his specific proposals on taxes? Where are his specific proposals on education? Where are his specific proposals on Medicare, Social Security, and other issues? I’ve put those on the table; he hasn’t.
MARGARET WARNER: He says the thing that distinguishes the two of you in his view is he’s just better prepared to be President, given the fact that he has held elective office, he has been chief executive as a governor.
STEVE FORBES: Well, I’ve been a chief executive too, and I have to get my money from voluntary customers. If they don’t like my product, I’m in trouble. When you’re in politics, holding elective office, you have the force of law. Even if the voters don’t like your taxes, they go to jail if they don’t pay them. That’s the difference.
MARGARET WARNER: What are your expectations now? Or what do you need to do in the primary next Tuesday?
STEVE FORBES: I’m not going to play that game. I’m going to concentrate on getting my message of growth and opportunity and hope out to the voters, and then they’ll make the decision on Tuesday.
MARGARET WARNER: In the past, you have said that your goal was to come in at least third here. Is that still your goal?
STEVE FORBES: That would be a very nice goal. It would be very nice for me to finish second in Delaware and first in Arizona, but I take it one step at a time. I’m not thinking about position placements. I’m thinking about getting my positions on the issues out for the voters. Then the placement in the polls will take care of itself.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, thank you, Mr. Forbes.
STEVE FORBES: Thank you.