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Forbes Jilts Louisiana GOP

Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes has dropped out of Louisiana's presidential caucus because rivals George W. Bush and John McCain have refused to participate.

Louisiana is trying to get a jump on Iowa, which traditionally has held the first caucuses of the presidential nominating season. But Bush and McCain declined to qualify as candidates for Louisiana's Jan. 15. caucuses, because of Iowa's first-in-the-nation status. Iowa's caucuses are scheduled for Jan. 24.

In a letter to Mike Francis, chairman of the state Republican Party, Forbes asked that his candidacy be withdrawn and that his name not appear on the ballot. "I make this request in light of the fact that neither Governor George Bush nor Senator John McCain will be participating."

His decision leaves the caucus to Gary Bauer, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Alan Keyes.

Forbes, Bush and McCain are too moderate and did not want to face Louisiana's "strong pro-family, pro-life Republican voters," said state Rep. Tony Perkins, who is handling Bauer's Louisiana campaign.

Greg Mueller, a Forbes spokesman, responded, "The race for the presidential nomination is a three-way race between Steve Forbes, a bonafide, across-the-board Reagan conservative versus two moderate, establishment candidates. Bauer is not a factor."

The two top GOP party leaders in Louisiana did not respond to repeated phone calls.

The Louisiana party is badly split and controlled by its Christian right wing.

A similar situation occurred four years ago when Louisiana beat Iowa's date. But less than 5 percent of Louisiana Republican showed up and the caucus was won by Pat Buchanan.

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