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Steve Forbes, Flat Tax Fan, Stays Neutral In GOP Presidential Race

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STEVE FORBES
Steve Forbes sits with then-presidential contender Rick Perry at a campaign stop in Sioux City, Iowa, on Jan. 2, 2012. | AP

NEW YORK -- If the tax cut lobby were a church (and many of its members see it that way), then its pope would be Steve Forbes, the jovial 64-year-old publisher of the magazine-and-web empire that bears his family name.

But in an interview with The Huffington Post, Forbes said he was not in a mood to bestow his blessing on any of the four Republicans left in the race.

"I'm not going to endorse anyone before the end of the primary season," said Forbes, who as a Republican presidential candidate in 1996 and 2000 supported a 17 percent flat tax on individual and corporate income and no tax on capital gains.

Expressing dissatisfaction with the GOP field on both substantive and salesmanship grounds, he said that he had hoped to see another late entrant in the field. His wish list included, in order, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

A prep school and Princeton graduate and the scion of a publishing fortune, the wonky and bookish Forbes was no Joe Biden himself on the campaign trail, yet he poked fun at Mitt Romney's stiff style and his original 59-point economic plan. Forbes had nothing good to say about the others, either.

The candidate he initially supported, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, flamed out early. "I endorsed him because he was for a flat tax," Forbes explained.

Rather than get involved in a four-way grind among less-than-stellar contenders, Forbes said that he is focusing his attention on trying to keep the House in GOP hands and add the Senate to the party's control.

"I think we're going to win the White House," he said. "People are not going to reelect Barack Obama. But will the new president govern as a real conservative? We're going to have to apply the heat to make sure."

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