The initial media salvo-estimated at $2 million to $3 million-breaks this week with TV ads in nine states and print ads in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The New York Times and The Washington Post.
The ad blitz will tout Mr. Forbes, 48, as a Washington outsider with a positive vision for the future shaped by the same supply side economic theory that guided President Reagan. A big component of the ads will be advocacy of lower taxes, specifically institution of a flat income tax rate of 17%.
While many of the planks have long been espoused through Forbes editorials, they were only hammered into a campaign pitch in the past several months. During that time, Mr. Forbes quietly pieced together a team of political and media strategists who have helped to bring conservative Republicans to power in recent elections.
The ad campaign "will be substantive, not gimmickry," said print ad designer David Welch. "They will be leadership ads, they won't be designed to appeal to Joe Six-Pack."
Creative for the print ads is from Welch, Campbell, Pusateri, Princeton, N.J.; TV was handled by Jefferson Marketing, Raleigh, N.C.
Media buying will be done by political pollster John McLaughlin, who resigned from the firm he founded, Fabrizio & McLaughlin, Alexandria, Va., earlier this year to join the Forbes for president effort.
"Steve is running a campaign that is lean and mean ....Without being too specific, he is going to run a national campaign with a lot of different media in TV, radio, newspapers," Mr. McLaughlin said, adding that his candidate will also work through online services and the Internet.
Mr. Forbes' campaign manager is Bill DalCole, a former chief of staff for Jack Kemp when he was Secretary of Housing & Urban Development. Mr. DalCole later went on to become president of the conservative think tank Empower America, where he first encountered Mr. Forbes.
"Our biggest hurdle may be that we're starting late," conceded Mr. DalCole, "but we've noticed a great frustration and anger out there among voters-and Republican voters in particular-against career politicians."
That theme has also been advanced by Sal Russo, an early Forbes adviser who is a principal in Russo, Marsh & Associates, Sacramento, Calif. Mr. Russo last year created TV commercials for Republican George Pataki's successful run for governor of New York.
What remains to be seen as the campaign unfolds: Will Mr. Forbes simply try to influence the direction of the GOP or is he seriously trying to win the nomination in what is already a crowded field?
Mr. Forbes' only political experience is as the appointed chairman of Radio Liberty in the Reagan administration and more recently as a behind the scenes adviser to New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman in her upset victory two years ago. When he was a lad, his father was a New Jersey state senator who made a spirited but unsuccessful bid to become governor.
Mr. Forbes plans to continue writing for Forbes, the business magazine started by his grandfather. He will keep the editor in chief title but relinquish the Forbes Inc. CEO responsibilities to younger brother Timothy, president of Forbes' American Heritage. And what does the younger Mr. Forbes think of his brother's chances for making history? "It's a longshot," he said, "but given the mood of the electorate, it's a definite possibility."