With Pat Headed Out, Forbes Rushes In

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Having long ago disregarded the tack of saving his attacks for members of the opposing party, Steve Forbes on Saturday opened up on George W. Bush and several other prominent GOP members. Speaking before California's Orange County Republicans, Forbes attacked Bush and Michigan Governor John Engler for failing to support a ballot initiative in Michigan creating a school voucher system. "Leadership means acting from principle," Forbes said. "I spoke out in favor of that referendum. Governor Bush has been silent." Throw in another mention of his longstanding criticism of Tennessee Governor Don Sundquist for saying he would support a state income tax, and the GOP leadership could be forgiven if they started making inquiries about a Reform Party membership card for Mr. Flat Tax.

In fact, it's the Reform Party, and Pat Buchanan's apparent impending defection to it, that has Forbes in attack-dog mode. He's spending the week trawling California for stray Buchanan voters. His bait: With Buchanan out of the way, he is the most prominent conservative candidate left in the GOP primary. California is a particularly tough sell -- voters rejected a school vouchers program, a key Forbes plank, a few years ago, and his anti-abortion stance doesn't play well there. Still, with Buchanan nearly out of the picture, Forbes may be the best alternative for Republican protest voters, which means more attack speeches could be on the way.