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Forbes to Launch Second Bid For Presidential Nomination

By Ronald Brownstein

Los Angeles Times -- WASHINGTON

Denouncing an overreaching government and “establishment politicians” as the main barriers to “an age of opportunity,” millionaire publisher Steve Forbes on Tuesday officially launches his second bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

In a broadly thematic speech, Forbes will argue that a period of “economic freedom and spiritual renewal” beckons to America in the information age -- but only if government is retrenched through reforms such as a single-rate flat tax and partial privatization of Social Security.

“It’s time to give every American the freedom to participate in this new era of prosperity,” Forbes says, in an advance copy of his remarks.

Best known in the 1996 campaign for his relentless advocacy of the flat tax, Forbes this time is courting religious conservatives by more heavily emphasizing social issues.

As an immediate goal, he promises to pursue legislation to ban the late-term procedure known as partial-birth abortion. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times Monday, Forbes also said that if elected, he would hope to propose a constitutional amendment to ban abortion (with exceptions for cases of rape, incest and to save the life of the mother) at some point during his term in office.

“I would hope that we would make (enough) substantial progress that (such an amendment) becomes something that is viable,” he said. “I think already the ground is beginning to shift” on the issue.

While several of his expected rivals -- most prominently Texas Gov. George W. Bush and former American Red Cross President Elizabeth Hanford Dole -- have recently filed papers to “explore” a presidential bid, Forbes skipped that stage and will establish an actual campaign committee. In some ways, even that step might be seen as redundant -- Forbes never really stopped running after his ’96 bid for the nomination collapsed.

But even after more than two years of constant campaigning, Forbes still faces a challenge: convincing voters he has the stature and experience to serve as president.