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Special Event

Steve Forbes Announces Withdrawal From GOP Presidential Race

Aired February 10, 2000 - 2:29 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: At any moment now, we expect Steve Forbes to appear at a news conference in Washington to announce that he's getting out of the 2000 presidential race.

CNN's Gene Randall is awaiting that Forbes appearance at the Capitol Hyatt in Washington and joins us now -- Gene.

GENE RANDALL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, it is the second time that Steve Forbes will become a former presidential candidate. He spent tens of millions of dollars of his own dollars in a failed attempt to capture the GOP nomination four years ago as well. His surrender to political reality this year comes just two days after an embarrassing third-place finch in the Delaware, which he won in 1996. Coupled with Forbes' dismal showing in New Hampshire, it became clear his campaign was going nowhere, that his effort to sell himself as the conservative to George W. Bush had too-few buyers.

Today's withdrawal comes amid growing pressure that Forbes recognizes there is, in fact, a two-man race in the Republican field between Bush and John McCain, and so the background for the announcement we will soon witness, that well before the crucial South Carolina primary Steve Forbes is out of the GOP contest for president. An aide says Forbes will not be making any endorsement, at least not yet.

Gene Randall, CNN, Washington.

WATERS: Gene, does the -- do the Forbes people have any explanation for the changing political dynamic in the last four years?

(APPLAUSE)

Steve Forbes now at the podium. Gene can't hear me.

(APPLAUSE)

STEVE FORBES (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you. Thank you very, very much.

Before I begin, I would like to introduce to you the national campaign chairman. He's an individual who I think typifies those who came to our cause in the last year. Even though he's involved in the public square, he's quite willing, when principle is involved, to go against the grain, to go against the conventional wisdom, to go against the tide.

Ken Blackwell, you're a wonderful man, wonderful friend, wonderful American, and I wish we had more like you in the public square.

(APPLAUSE)

And I'd also like to introduce to you some members of my family. Without them, this effort would not have been possible. They supported me every inch of the way. Two of our daughters are here, Catherine and Moira.

(APPLAUSE)

They've put up with a lot and they're probably more sensitive to what their father has done than probably anyone else. But as my father liked to say when he or my mother would do something that I or my siblings didn't like, my father would say, You're not a good parent if at some point you're not an embarrassment to your children.

(LAUGHTER)

I'd like to especially introduce to you my wife of 28 years who has been the real saint in this effort, my wife Sabina.

(APPLAUSE)

Well, we just have another special guest, another individual who's willing to swim against the tides, but does so because of basic principle, basic American principles: The man who led the charge in the impeachment proceedings despite no support from the -- very little support from others, but he did it because it was right, and history will vindicate him, Georgia Congressmen Bob Barr.

(APPLAUSE)

Well, my friends, as my father once said when he lost a governor's race in New Jersey: We were nosed out by a landslide. But I have no regrets and you shouldn't either, for together you and I have transformed the public agenda, the political landscape. Together, we have created a new conservative agenda, and that agenda will come to pass. Mark my words.

(APPLAUSE)

In 1964, Barry Goldwater lost his campaign for the presidency, but he made history and he launched the great conservative movement of the 20th century and set the stage for Ronald Reagan. Today, I am withdrawing from the presidential contest, but I'm not withdrawing from the public square.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you. I don't believe in business as usual, and I don't believe in politics as usual. With every ounce of energy and passion that I have, I aim to set the stage, with your help, for the next great conservative century, the greatest era of economic freedom and spiritual renewal this country as ever experienced. As you know...

(APPLAUSE)

As you know, America today is on the cusp of what should be one of the most extraordinary eras in human history. No nation has ever occupied the position that we do today. We're the only superpower in the world, something that has never happened in 5,000 years of human history. And we achieved that position not by sending legions out on missions of conquest, we did it through the strength that comes from a free, vibrant and moral people.

But as you know, just because great opportunities are before us, they're not going to happen unless good people work to make them happen. It's true in raising a family, it's true in running a business, it's true in doing your civic activities: You have to work to make good things happen, and the same is true in the public square.

On New Year's Eve when it became clear that the computers were going to allow out us to enter this new century, new millennium, you could sense around the world the excitement and anticipation of what should be an extraordinary new age.

But we should also remind ourselves the optimism that greeted the 20th century. People 100 years ago thought this century would not only see great material advances, but they also thought that, almost by effortlessness, they thought it would happen almost automatically, that the rule of law and democracy would advance. After all, even Russia under the autocratic czar was beginning to establish, haltingly, a constitutional monarchy. Then came a catastrophic and political failure of leadership with the first world war, the seemingly millions slaughtered senselessly on the Western front. That catastrophe undermined the faith of many in the tenets of Western civilization. The first world war led to the rise of communism, then fascism, Nazism, a Great Depression, another world war, followed by a 40-year Cold War.

Now we have an opportunity again to help create an environment here at home and around the world where our values can sink real roots in once-barren and hostile soil. But it's not going to happen unless good people work to make it happen.

To guide us, we need only look at the founding document of our republic, the Declaration of Independence, with those immortal words penned by Thomas Jefferson that we are "endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights," that among these are "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." And what Abraham Lincoln said at Gettysburg when he said that this nation, under God, shall have a "new birth of freedom." Those words can guide us just as surely as they've guided previous generations.

A new birth of freedom means the freedom to be born. Many in America don't share our goal of a human life amendment, but the ground is shifting. It is shifting in part because of the partial-birth debate, but also, too, because of technology, especially the sonogram which vividly illustrates that the baby in the womb is a separate being with a separate soul and therefore deserving of the full protection of the laws of the United States of America.

(APPLAUSE)

WATERS: Steve Forbes telling his supporters in Washington that "we were nosed out by a landslide" but also told them that they had, in his campaign, transformed the American agenda, the public agenda, and there was -- there were no regrets. Mr. Forbes surrounded by his family, his tearful daughters Moira and Catherine behind him, his wife Sabina, his campaign manager and Georgia Congressman Bob Barr, announcing that he's calling it quits but not withdrawing from the public square, as he put it -- Donna.

DONNA KELLEY, CNN ANCHOR: And joining us now from Washington our senior political analyst Bill Schneider. Bill, what happens now with his supporters? Where do they go? Better for Bush or McCain?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, on the whole, I'd say it's better for Governor George W. Bush because he's the more conserve believer. He appeals to the true believers in this contest. John McCain has defied the party and defied the conservatives on a lot of issues, including, most notably, campaign finance reform, which a lot of conservatives feel is very threatening to them. The problem is George Bush is not really a hero to conservatives. They look at McCain and Bush, they don't really see a huge choice...

(AUDIO GAP)

... Ronald Reagan. A lot of them may stay home. That's the biggest risk.

KELLEY: A noticeable impact, then, for Bush?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I think on the margins it will help George W. Bush rally the conservative base of the party against John McCain not because they love Bush so much but because a lot of them see McCain as some sort of a threat, an alien invasion, to their party, especially because he appeals to so many Democrats and Independents. So on the margins this will help, but it means George Bush is the winner? Absolutely not. Forbes didn't have enough support to make that happen.

KELLEY: How about the secretary of South Carolina's Republican Party? He has a Forbes supporter. He has now endorsed John McCain. What effect do you think that's going to have on the primary and Forbes saying that he influenced the issues. Did he influence the issues?

SCHNEIDER: Well, he said he was swimming against the tide in this election, which I think is exactly right. He did appeal to a lot of conservatives on principle; he ran a campaign on the issues; he was very strongly identified with the anti-tax issue, which was his oldest issue; and in this campaign, unlike in 1996, with the anti-abortion issue, which he drew close attention to in his statement just now.

The problem is that to a lot of conservative voters this is not the election in which they want to send a message. This is an election which they want to win. They've been very unhappy for seven years with Bill Clinton as president, and the mood right now among conservatives is you may have to go to the center a little bit, maybe make a few compromise, not on anything really hardcore, but we may want to support a George Bush or a John McCain, whatever it takes to win back the White House. Sending a message was just not the motive of the conservative movement at this time.

KELLEY: Our senior political analysts, Bill Schneider, thanks.

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