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TheStreet Open House

Steve Forbes Defends Mitt Romney

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- TheStreet's Debra Borchardt talks to Steve Forbes regarding Mitt Romney's presidential candidacy. A full transcript appears below.

Steve Forbes:
With this election, one of the questions is, is this equivalent to the spirit in 1976 or 1980? In 1976, we had just had previous years of massive political scandal, horrific recession, our worst downturn since the 1930s, record high unemployment in the post-World War II period -- economy coming back but a lot of things had to be done. Carter gets in and disappoints people. Things get worse, not better, so we finally got the positive reforms in 1980. People are ready for a change. If Mr. Romney wins, the question: Will he be Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan?

Debra Borchardt:
The presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, recently made his comment that 47 percent of Americans felt like they were victims and not paying taxes. What do you think about that comment?

Steve Forbes:
Well, as he politely put it, it was inelegant, in other words he shouldn't have done it. What he should emphasize, which he did subsequently, was that a lot of people aren't paying tax because their incomes are not high enough. Therefore, you get a prosperous economy and the base of the taxpayers goes up for the right reasons. Some folks, even if they don't pay federal income tax, everyone who is working pays into Social Security and Medicare now, theoretically that may not be a tax. But everyone figures it's a tax because the government's taking it away from you. Call it what you will.

So, what he should have pivoted on immediately and took too long to do it, but he got it done finally, is to emphasize that this is about economic growth. Those numbers will deal with themselves when we get the growth part right.

Debra Borchardt:
Some people feel that he's losing his momentum. Do you think he can get that momentum back? Do you think the debates are the place for him to really grab hold again?

Steve Forbes:
The debates are going to be critical. They're going to be watched by tens of millions of people. And all of these polls, what's amazing is that President Obama doesn't go above 50 percent. For an incumbent, that is bad news because we all know the incumbent. We really don't know except for snatches of Governor Romney. So, in the next few weeks, if he gets out his Reagan-esque message, it's one thing to have a tax proposal but if you're not out there flogging it, advocating it, and making it part of the theme of positive growth, it's not going to do you much good. So, he should talk to Paul Ryan about that. Paul gets it.

Debra Borchardt:
I was going to ask you that because it does seem like he's been silenced. He picked him as a running mate because he's charismatic, he has a very good command of the policies and the economy and the economic policies. But yet, he seems to have gone very quiet. Do we need to hear more from him?

Steve Forbes:
I think we will, especially with the debates coming up. Paul Ryan has been very busy now on fundraisers. You've got to get the ammunition to fight some big battles in the next month or so in October. So, I think this is a temporary thing. He will be out there and I think people will see that these ideas are well thought out. Lord help Vice President Biden if Biden thinks he's going to best Paul Ryan on the details and the essence of these reforms. A sound bite is not going to do it in the debate.

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