Presidential contender Steve Forbes won an endorsement Wednesday from an old friend and popular Republican, Jack Kemp, giving a boost to the publisher's campaign on the eve of the New York primary.
Calling his late endorsement "a difficult decision," Kemp said: "Last night, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to support Steve Forbes. I wanted to endorse Bob Dole, but Bob Dole did not support a single flat tax.
"It pained me to make this decision," said Kemp, a former congressman and Cabinet member. "I'm not here to campaign against Bob Dole," he added, but he said he chose Forbes over Dole "because of the fear that the Republican Party will go into '96 and '97 without vigor, dynamism, growth and inclusion, and these issues are Steve Forbes'."
The two appeared at a news conference in Albany, N.Y. Kemp said Forbes would stay in the contest at least until the key California primary on March 26.
Although Kemp's endorsement provides a lift, analysts said it was too little, too late.
Kemp said he originally thought he would help reconcile factions within the party, "but when the Dole campaign sent insurgents into New York to attack Steve Forbes for trying to reform the tax code . . . I decided I would come off the sidelines and take a more active role in the Forbes campaign."
Dole front-runner in N.Y.
Sen. Bob Dole takes his winning momentum to the New York primary today, where he is considered the runaway front-runner to gather up the state's 93 delegates, the richest single haul so far in the Republican race.
The 93 delegates are chosen by voters, and another nine are selected later by party leaders, all of whom support Dole.
"New York means lots of delegates," said Lee Meringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion. "Mathematically, New York doesn't finish it off for Dole, but politically that may have already occurred."