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Jewish World Review April 9, 1999 /23 Nissan 5759

Don Feder

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Bauer and Forbes --- Main Street vs. Wall Street

(JWR) ---- (http://www.jewishworldreview.com)
THE REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL FIELD has something for everyone (and comedy tonight?). But none of the contenders provide a more vivid contrast than social conservative sachem Gary Bauer and "capitalist tool" Steve Forbes.

Both are pro-life and back a flat tax. But Bauer comes from a blue-collar background, while Forbes inherited $200 million, give or take, from Malcolm Sr.

To earn his allowance, young Steve had to serve drinks to guests on his father's 151-foot yacht, among other strenuous duties. Bauer grew up in rough-and-tumble Newport, Ky., the son of a steelworker.

Forbes' platform sounds like a compendium of Wall Street Journal editorials -- in favor of most favored Nation trade status for China, euphoric on immigration, in support of the Kosovo bombing. Bauer has gleefully bucked Republican leaders and the business community on China trade and the family tax cut.

"In economic matters in general, the Republican Party has a reputation to live down," Bauer cautions. "It says that we are the party of the rich, the party of the bottom line, the party of the almighty dollar."

Forbes doesn't contradict that image. Moreover, with his '50s haircut, goofy grin and monotone delivery, he might be mistaken for comedian Ben Stein's younger brother -- minus the dry humor.

Bauer isn't physically imposing, either. Nor can he pound the podium like Pat Buchanan or Alan Keyes. But his soft-spoken style is equally compelling.

"Historically, a nation's greatness is measured by its economy, its military, the splendor of its cities," Bauer told an audience in Manchester, N.H., two weeks ago. However, "You can also measure a nation by its virtue deficit."

Forbes
He ticks off signs of decline: the racist murder in Jasper, Texas, schoolyard shootings and the New Jersey prom mom, who gave birth in a restroom and threw her baby in the trash "as if it was a Styrofoam cup."

Bauer, "What was the poisoned air she had to breath to think that was OK?" He's the only candidate who makes the moral agenda his primary, though not exclusive, focus. Buchanan is equally committed to traditional values, but trade and sovereignty are his passions, not abortion and the integrity of marriage.

Bauer left the Reagan White House, where he was domestic policy chief, for the Family Research Council. He took the council from a three-person operation to the most respected pro-family group in Washington -- with a $14 million budget and 120 staffers.

Two years ago, he formed the Campaign for Working Families to support candidates whose outspokenness on abortion and homosexuality makes them anathema to the Republican establishment.

In 1998, the political action committee raised $7 million, making it America's No. 2 PAC. In Illinois last year, its $50,000 independent expenditure on partial-birth abortion helped Peter Fitzgerald defeat Carol Moseley Braun, the only democratic incumbent to lose a Senate race.

Gary knows he needs $19 million to make a serious run. In seven weeks, he raised $1.4 million from 16,000 donors. Unlike George W. Bush and Elizabeth Dole, his average contribution is small (around $45), which means he can keep coming back to his donor base.

Organization is the key to Iowa and New Hampshire. Gary has the inside track on recruiting the religious conservatives who increasingly dominate GOP primaries.

At this year's Conservative Political Action Conference, Bauer won a presidential straw poll of 1,000 delegates, beating Bush by 5 percentage points and Forbes by almost 18 points.

Activists trust him. He's fought their battles and knows how to move them. "Someone has called the family 'God's masterpiece,'" Bauer observes. Yet, "We penalize it with taxes, marginalize it with judicial decrees, undermine it with educational policies, redefine it with trendy new ideas -- and still somehow it survives."

Bauer is telling friends he's "not delusional." He knows he isn't the odds-on favorite for the nomination. But he's the only one in the race with the both the resources and the commitment to articulate a moral vision.

Forbes is a nice guy who has the personal fortune to buy into the game, but not much more. Bauer has the passion, the activist network and the savvy to play his hand well.

He believes the early primaries will narrow the field to three -- an establishment candidate (probably Bush), a bridge candidate (possibly Dole) and a conservative champion. If that happened to be a steelworker's son from the Blue Grass state, the GOP might lose its Dun and Bradstreet rating, and get along well without it.


Up

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©1999, Creators Syndicate