(CNSNews.com) - Touting his own conservative credentials as the most credible among the Republican presidential nomination candidates, Steve Forbes said Sunday that George W Bush should meet the other GOP candidates in New Hampshire and join in debates like the one Friday in Durham, NH where Forbes, John McCain, Gary Bauer, Orrin Hatch and Alan Keyes sparred without the noticeably absent Bush.
"[Bush] insulted the people of New Hampshire just this week by skipping a debate while the other major candidates were there," said Forbes on CBS's Face The Nation.
The only other Republican candidate not attending the debate held at the University of New Hampshire and televised nationally was pat Buchanan who is expected to announce on Monday his withdrawal from the Republican Party.
"We need these kind of debates so that people can see what you truly stand for," said Forbes. "I'm the only true conservative in the race," he added.
Forbes said that no other conservative has put out such detailed proposals as his recently released economic plan that includes abolishing the current federal tax code and replacing it with a 17 percent flat tax.
The other candidates at the debate also criticized Bush for not attending Friday's forum, the first in a series of scheduled matches leading up to the February primary in New Hampshire. Bush has agreed to debate his rivals on December 2, but passed up this first round to attend a $1,000 a plate fund-raiser in neighboring Vermont.
Hatch wondered whether Bush "will be able to handle debates against" Democratic opponents; while Bauer said that he wished Bush "were here so we could talk about" issues such as partial-birth abortion.
McCain added that voters "expect to see you. They expect to talk to you and to look you in the eye."