Former presidential candidate and Forbes magazine editor Steve Forbes tells Newsmax.TV that Texas Gov. Rick Perry is off to a fresh start and “can put this thing back together.”
Perry tweeted this morning that his campaign was focusing on South Carolina, saying "Here we come!" after telling supporters he would return to Texas to reassess his campaign following his disappointing fifth-place finish in Iowa on Tuesday.
“I’m delighted that the governor is staying in the race,” Forbes told Newsmax.TV on Wednesday. “They’re going to regroup. He’s going to do both debates in New Hampshire this weekend and then spend the rest of the time in South Carolina.”
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Forbes, however, added that he predicts former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will win the New Hampshire primary as he did the Iowa caucuses. Even so, Forbes interprets Romney’s eight-vote margin of victory in Iowa and his failure to attract a larger percentage of voters than he did four years ago as evidence that of political vulnerability.
“I think it was in essence a real repudiation of Gov. Romney,” Forbes said of Iowa. “This is his second time in Iowa. He spent a bundle four years ago, did a major effort in the last few weeks in Iowa, but was unable to penetrate beyond 25 percent. And while he’ll win New Hampshire — the neighboring state — I think the real donnybrook, the real battle is going to be in South Carolina.”
As governor of the second largest state, Perry devoted considerable resources to spreading his message in Iowa since entering the race on Aug. 13 and at one point surged to frontrunner status before a series of poor debate performances derailed his momentum.
“He’ll have a fresh start there and so I think he can put this thing back together,” Forbes insisted. Entrance polls conducted by Fox News revealed that Perry was perceived by “very conservative” Iowa voters to be less conservative than some of his rivals, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and even former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who has struggled to shake off a perception of being a moderate.
Forbes believes that Romney’s two greatest weaknesses in the eyes of Republican voters are taxes and his close association with the Massachusetts healthcare law that he helped usher in as governor.
“He has no tax plan and as a matter of fact he’s spoken favorably of the idea of a Value Added Tax,” said Forbes, who believes that such a tax could lead to a European-style welfare state in America.
“I think that is going to be a real bone in the throat for Republicans,” he said, noting that Romney’s other “big albatross” is healthcare. “Until he deals with that so the people feel comfortable that he’ll handle healthcare in a free market way rather than a government way, I think he’s going to still have problems with most of the Republican base.”
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who finished on the losing side of Romney’s eight-vote margin of victory, has also made some decisions that lead Forbes to challenge his conservative convictions, particularly his support of Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Spector in a primary election in which Spector was pitted against conservative Pat Toomey.
“Specter narrowly won that race and then went on to provide the critical vote for the passage of Obamacare,” recalls Forbes. “If Rick Santorum had been true to his convictions and backed a conservative — Pat Toomey — in that race we never would have had Obamacare.”
He said that Santorum will also have to explain his record with respect to government earmarks.
“He’s going to go through the kind of vetting that everyone goes through these days,” Forbes explains. “It’s not a pleasant process, but unless you’re Barack Obama, there’s no way to avoid it.”
Perry consulted Forbes before releasing his tax proposal, which includes a 20-percent flat tax and elimination of the so-called death tax and capital gains’ tax. Forbes advocated a flat-tax plan in 1996 when he ran his losing race for the party's nomination.
Forbes believes the flat tax is an idea that has finally come into vogue.
“Twenty-five countries around the world have put it in. It’s worked everywhere it’s been tried and I think there’s going to be a mandate from the elections this year to have a radical simplification of the tax code,” said Forbes.
“Rick Perry is in favor it. Newt Gingrich is. Others have simplification plans not quite as far as the flat tax but moving in the right direction,” he added. “And the only one who is against the idea is Gov. Romney. Perhaps he can be persuaded. He’s changed his mind before.”
Such a plan would almost certainly result in the elimination of a number of jobs within the IRS and among tax lawyers who make their living off the complicated tax code.
“Even though I’m a conservative I’ll show compassion. I would support job retraining for the IRS,” quipped Forbes, who would extend the retraining offer to government bureaucrats hired to police Obamacare once that program is sent to the “dustbin of history.”
Asked if he would ever entertain a presidential invitation to serve as treasury secretary, Forbes said that he was happy with his current role.
“I’m having more fun and I think more effectiveness being an agitator than trying to work the bureaucratic games inside,” he said. “And as Ronald Reagan said, ‘the way to change minds on Capitol Hill is not through sweet reason but through the heat of public opinion.’”
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