Washington (CNSNews.com) - Republican presidential hopeful Steve Forbes withdrew from the GOP nominating contest on Thursday by thanking his conservative supporters while urging them to keep fighting for tax reform and the lives of unborn children.
"No one said that this fight would be easy, but in life, nothing important ever is," said Forbes. "But you, my friends, rose to the challenge. You have fought the good fight; you have kept the faith," he said to his friends and family in a speech delivered at a Capitol Hill hotel ballroom.
Saying that the conservative cause is "more important than one individual," Forbes vowed to continue to stay on the political scene.
"Today, I am withdrawing from the presidential contest, but I am not withdrawing from the public square," Forbes said with his wife, Sabina, and two of his five daughters at his side.
Forbes did not endorse any other candidate in the GOP race. Three candidates remain to vie for the nomination: Texas Governor George W Bush, Arizona Senator John McCain and former diplomat Alan Keyes.
Forbes said that he has no plans to run for the US Senate from his home state of New Jersey.
Forbes did say that he liked some aspects of McCain's tax plan and he complimented Keyes for his pro-life stance.
"Of the three remaining candidates, obviously Alan Keyes is four-square on the life issue," Forbes said in a question-and-answer period following his announcement.
"John McCain is talking nicely about the flat-tax, raising the 15 percent bracket as a first step towards simplifying the tax code," said Forbes.
A Forbes campaign consultant also told CNSNews.com that some aspects of McCain's tax proposals impress Forbes.
Appearing with Forbes was a long-time supporter, Representative Bob Barr, a conservative Georgia Republican, who told CNSNews.com that he is undecided on whom he will now support for the GOP nomination. Barr said that the upcoming February 19th South Carolina primary is crucial, especially for Bush.
"If Bush loses big in South Carolina, it would be at least a body blow, if not a knockout," Barr told CNSNews.com.
Reaction from the Forbes campaign staff was mixed as to which candidate they now support.
Maureen Hogan, a former Forbes supporter, told CNSNews.com that she is now supporting McCain primarily because of his war record and because she does not think Bush is ready for the presidency.
"Bush is a good governor, but McCain comes across as the more mature of the two," said Hogan. "Almost a boy-versus-man thing."
Forbes supporter Greg Burnside told CNSNews.com that he is throwing his support to Bush because he is opposed to McCain's position on campaign finance reform.
"That's why the media like him so much," said Burnside.