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Publisher Steve Forbes styles himself as the plainspoken heir to Ronald Reagan's conservative legacy. While he lags far behind Republican front-runner George W. Bush in the polls, he's hoping that he -- like Reagan before him -- can defy the Republican Establishment and win the party's Presidential nomination. On Oct. 5, Forbes discussed his campaign with Business Week White House Correspondent Richard S. Dunham.
Q: Are you the conservative alternative to George W. Bush?
A: We've got more substance on the table than the other candidates, and we've been gaining momentum. We're building on our strong second-place finish in the [August] Iowa straw poll. The contest was always going to shape up as a replay of [Reagan's campaigns in] 1976 and 1980, between the Republican Establishment, the Washington lobbyists and reform conservatives.
Q: How is your 2000 campaign different than your unsuccessful 1996 effort?
A: The key difference is time. Last time, I announced my candidacy very late. This time, there is a chance to get a broad-based message out in an unhurried way.
Q: George Bush seems to be ignoring your challenges to a series of debates and focusing on a general-election message. Can you change that?
A: It won't happen until the voters make him. Someday, he's going to wake up and find out he's no more invulnerable than Al Gore was [in the Democratic primaries]. I don't think people want a candidate in a bubble.
Q: How important is your financial edge over other conservatives?
A: The whole Establishment has rallied around the front-runner and showered him with money and cut everybody else off. I will be competitive [financially].
Q: Your attacks on [1996 rival] Bob Dole ended up strengthening your rivals Pat Buchanan and Lamar Alexander more than you. Don't you run a similar risk now: By attacking George Bush, you could help John McCain and Elizabeth Dole?
A: That's why we're hitting hard on issues. On education, for example, Governor Bush wants a bigger role for the [federal] government. I want to empower parents. After seven years of photo ops and spin, people yearn for real substance and real principles.
Q: You've criticized the Fed's monetary policy and called for the abolition of the International Monetary Fund. Do these issues resonate with voters?
A: I tackle issues that ostensibly aren't poll-grabbers. They [the Fed and IMF] don't intimidate me. I think they have an appalling record. Our government and the IMF have been inadvertently supporting a new, semi-serf system in Russia, where 4 in 10 workers aren't being paid. The kleptocrats are busy raiding the country. We should cut off aid to Russia until something is done about it. It's time for leadership, not tepid talk.
EDITED BY DOUGLAS HARBRECHT
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