Gary Bauer's national campaign chairman says he has concluded that Bauer can't win the Republican presidential nomination. So yesterday he stepped down and endorsed someone he believes can: Steve Forbes.

In a memo to conservative leaders around the country, Charles Jarvis said the GOP nomination fight has boiled down to a race between Forbes and Texas Gov. George W. Bush. Between them, Jarvis said, Forbes is the authentic conservative.

In the memo -- released by the Forbes camp -- Jarvis said: "After much soul searching, I have concluded that Gary Bauer, my friend and colleague for 16 years, cannot win. We waged a valiant effort in Iowa. I am very proud of our work. But we must be honest with ourselves. Our efforts, while impressive, were not enough."

The Forbes campaign spun the endorsement as a coup. Before joining Bauer, Jarvis was executive vice president of James Dobson's socially conservative Focus on the Family. "We've said all along that at some point Forbes is going to emerge as the conservative alternative to George W. Bush, and this is a major step toward that happening," said Forbes spokesman Keith Appell.

Bauer campaign manager Frank Cannon issued a statement thanking Jarvis for his contributions and wishing him "the best of luck in his new role."

"The Bauer campaign is moving forward with great momentum," the statement said. "We hope that Charlie can convince Steve Forbes to debate us on the issues soon."

Hillary and Her Posse

When first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke to reporters in New York City yesterday, the new message was not in the words. Her denunciation of the Republican tax cut bill has been routine for several weeks.

Rather, the new message was in the stepped-up use of a time-tested political art form: the stage-managed news conference, complete with an arresting supporting cast.

Flanking her before the TV cameras were some of the city's leading Democrats, which means they're all political foes of Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, Clinton's likely GOP opponent in next year's Senate race. And each has indicated an interest in becoming mayor someday.

Right next to Clinton was Fernando Ferrer, the Bronx borough president, who seemed so miffed just 11 days ago over Clinton's opposition to the clemency her husband granted to Puerto Rican militants. "One disagreement does not trouble make," Ferrer said.

And there also was City Council Speaker Peter F. Vallone, City Comptroller Alan Hevesi and Public Advocate Mark Green. Of them all, Green is reportedly hated by Giuliani most. The mayor even pushed a review of the city charter in a bid to stop Green from automatically succeeding him should he vacate his seat early. (The issue will be put to a referendum in November.)

But none of this received mention. Rather, it was the tax cut and how it would, by Clinton's calculations, wipe away funding for 7,200 new teachers in New York state; rob more than 350,000 children of educational support programs; deny after-school programs to 10,000 children; and leave 23,000 without Head Start preschool.

Speaking very much like a resident of the state where she does not yet live, Clinton said: "I hope that we will make it clear to Congress that New York will not stand for this kind of irresponsible behavior out of Washington."

The mayor, by the way, supports the tax cuts.

Staff writer Lynne Duke in New York contributed to this report.