Flat Chance

In '96, Steve Forbes conquered Arizona. In 2000, he's a bit player.

Another factor: The blush is off the rose. In 1996, Forbes was an independent, original thinker. In 2000, he's just trying to win.

Singer: "He started acting like a typical politician and got Potomac Fever and, in my opinion, started selling out."

Ultimately, Bruce Merrill says, the reason there's no Forbes buzz in Arizona is because people know he will not be president.

"I think people are sophisticated enough to know that he is not a legitimate alternative," Merrill says. "Forbes is not a legitimate player. He is at the table because he spent $30 million of his own money. And if he had not spent that kind of money, he would have been where Elizabeth Dole and [Dan Quayle] and everybody else is, with no ability to raise money and be a contender. In a way, he's kind of playing at being a candidate."

Zogby agrees. "There is a sense, stronger today even than in 1996, that he can't win. And that [winning] is the grand unifier of all Republicans."

Perhaps not all.

Jeannie Lewis, a Scottsdale resident who has been active in local Republican politics for years, remains an ardent Forbes fan -- though she admits it's unlikely he'll win the Arizona primary, let alone the presidency.

Lewis liked Forbes' economic plan in 1996 and this time she likes his socially conservative positions on such issues as abortion. She's spent time with the Forbes family, and unlike with George W. Bush, whom Lewis says flashes his "bedroom eyes" and has little substance, she and her husband, Ed, liked what they saw.

"Here's this business mogul with all this money and with all this prestige and his education and, in a lot of ways, he and Sabina hang out with their kids just like Ed and I do," she says.

But even Lewis admits she doesn't have the desire to volunteer that she once did.

"I don't feel as ignited to be down there working and participating. I think I kind of burned out from doing a lot of that," she says. "Maybe it's the millennium hype. Maybe it's La Niña. I have no idea."

Many of the Lewises' friends are turned off of politics, in the post-Lewinsky era, she says.

Lewis sees Forbes' influence all over, including in the other candidates' tax plans, so his candidacy has not been for naught. And win or lose, she'll still cast her ballot for him next month.

"I don't need to be with the person that wins," she says. "I don't like the bandwagon attitude."

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