- The Washington Times - Monday, January 17, 2000

INDIANOLA, Iowa Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes, relentlessly pursuing the social conservatives' vote as the Iowa campaign heads into its final week, promised yesterday to deliver "a very nice surprise" to front-runner Texas Gov. George W. Bush in next Monday's caucuses.
Mr. Forbes, a solid second in most Iowa polls but still trailing Mr. Bush by as much as 30 points, told reporters that Iowa voters typically don't make up their minds until the final week before the caucuses and hinted that many of them are starting to break his way.
"When people really make up their minds, as they're starting to do, I think we're going to have a nice surprise," he said.
While a Forbes win in Iowa still seems remote Mr. Bush also has a strong state organization and trounced the rest of the field in Iowa's straw poll last summer Mr. Forbes does have reason to be optimistic about a strong showing in the nation's first presidential contest.
A Des Moines television station released a poll Saturday night that showed Mr. Bush, for the first time, with less than 50 percent support among likely caucus participants. Mr. Forbes had 17 percent in the same poll.
Bill Dal Col, Mr. Forbes' campaign manager, said internal polls of committed Republican caucus attendees are showing Mr. Forbes around 26 to 28 percent, with Mr. Bush around 40 percent.
"Let Bush wake up and find out Monday [caucus day]," Mr. Dal Col said. "We're picking up. We'll deliver what we need to deliver."
Bush campaign spokesman Ari Fleischer said the Forbes campaign made similar claims about a close race before Mr. Bush vanquished the rest of the field last August in the Iowa straw poll. And he said the winning candidate in the Iowa caucuses has never received more than 37 percent of the vote.
"We hope to do well and we expect to do well," he said.
Iowa could become the high-water mark of Mr. Forbes' campaign. He is a distant third behind Mr. Bush and Sen. John McCain in polls in New Hampshire, site of the nation's first primary on Feb. 1. He also trails both men in polls in Arizona, another important early primary state, where Mr. Forbes won in 1996.
Forbes campaign spokesman Keith Appell said a strong showing in Iowa would benefit Mr. Forbes more than a respectable third-place finish would help Mr. McCain because Mr. Forbes has organizations in more states. Mr. McCain has virtually ignored Iowa, but is tied for third in the most recent poll.
"We have organizations in 20 states," Mr. Appell said. "That's why we have a better shot than McCain. He's really only a two-state candidate, maybe three."
The McCain campaign has focused on early wins in New Hampshire Feb. 1 and South Carolina on Feb. 19 to build momentum heading into Super Tuesday, March 7, when 13 states hold primaries, including California, New York and Ohio. Mr. Bush still leads all Republican candidates by wide margins in national polls.
Mr. Forbes will campaign in Iowa every day until the caucuses he says he has logged more than 12,000 miles in the state with his message of tax cuts and a pro-life philosophy.
Mr. Bush went home to Texas Saturday and will return to Iowa Wednesday for the final days of the campaign.
Mr. Forbes seems to have learned a lesson from the 1996 campaign. This time, he is using every opportunity to emphasize his pro-life position. During the debate on Saturday, he turned several questions on other subjects to the topic of abortion.
"One of the great tasks of the president is not just to have programs, but to create an environment where the American people can experience a spiritual and moral renewal," Mr. Forbes said. "You can feel it beginning to happen in America. And that's why the life issue is important. If you put liberty before life, that's a license to kill. We need to have life sanctified again in the American nation."
At a town meeting yesterday in Indianola, about 15 miles south of Des Moines, the wealthy publisher also used his lack of political experience to try to sell his flat tax to voters.
"We should tell Washington who is in charge," Mr. Forbes told about 100 people at Simpson College. "It's our country, not theirs."
Bill McGinnis of Norwalk, Iowa, a Republican who intends to attend next week's caucuses, said he will support Mr. Forbes.
"I believe in his down-to-earth approach," Mr. McGinnis said. "He doesn't have all the ties with Washington that the other politicians have. This guy is stand-alone."

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