Religious activist Gary Bauer and New Hampshire Sen. Bob Smith are both running, says Dickerson, but "won't get very far, and Quayle was thrown off stride by Ashcroft and may now be too far behind." That leaves Forbes and his forty-league wallet as the nuisance of choice for hard-liners -- at least he'll buy plenty of commercial time. But in the long run, the biggest beneficiaries of Aschcroft's departure will be the real candidates (other Dole, other Bush). "Someone like George W. Bush would not have been the conservatives' first choice," says Dickerson, "but now some will cross over to him." Republicans may get their "big tent" after all -- whether they want it or not.
WASHINGTON: Every GOP presidential race has candidates who run for office (Bob Dole, George Bush) -- and nuisances who roil the primaries (Pat Buchanan, Steve Forbes). Sen. John Ashcroft of Missouri, favorite of the religious right, was a looming nuisance until he dropped out Tuesday. And that makes this season's new head nuisance -- Forbes again -- very happy. "Now the social conservatives need a new candidate," says TIME congressional correspondent John Dickerson.