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Showman Trump is great for GOP: Steve Forbes

While Donald Trump continues to suck all the oxygen out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination, many pundits keep asking when the air is going to go out of this unlikely frontrunner's campaign.

But Steve Forbes, chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes Media, said Monday that Trump, even with his controversial comments and policies, is for real and has been a net-positive for the GOP.

The two-time Republican presidential candidate Forbes cited the record 24 million viewers who tuned into the primetime debate earlier this month on Fox News.

"Twenty-four million people, if [Trump] wasn't there you won't have had about 4 million," he said. "That first debate … people saw serious people on that stage," making reference to strong performances by other candidates.

"You have to take him seriously," Forbes told CNBC. "People knew Donald Trump. They knew him from NBC, ['The Apprentice'] a huge successful show." He said he's personally known Trump for a "number of years.

In a wide-ranging interview that aired Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," Trump said that as president, he'd reverse the Obama administration's executive orders on immigration and deport all undocumented immigrants.

Appearing on CNBC's "Squawk Box," Forbes said Trump's immigration policies would never happen because Americans know it's not possible to deport 11 million people. But they are frustrated with President Barack Obama playing politics with hot-button issues, he argued. "What it underscores is, by golly this next administration is going to have to deal this issue once and for all, instead of letting be a political football."

Asked whether he'd support Trump, Forbes said he's waiting to see his tax reform plan, which was a major issue pushed by Forbes during his failed runs for the GOP nomination. Forbes said he's not going to run this time, joking that he's "the only one not running," referring to the 17 announced Republican candidates.

Forbes also compared Trump and self-described socialist Bernie Sanders. Their politics are polar opposites, he said, but they have harnessed tapped into voter "anger and discontent."

The independent senator is making a strong showing, though many observers still believe Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination. "Who would have thought an aging self-avowed socialist from Vermont would be the star of the Democratic Party, getting tens of thousands of people coming to his rallies."

Forbes said Clinton's strategy of laying low is not working, as the investigation into her use of a personal email server during her time as secretary of state keeps making headlines. "She hasn't figured out yet how to get those behind her," he said.

"I don't know how you turn that campaign around," he said. "The only way to do it, and she's starting to do it now, is try to come out with certain issues and saying, 'I'm more left than Bernie Sanders, more left than Elizabeth Warren.'" Senator Warren of Massachusetts is also champion of the left.

But the [Clinton] ship has started to take on water," he continued, "and they haven't figured out ... this emailgate."

There's been plenty of speculation that other Democrats may look to get into the race, including Vice Presidential Joe Biden and even former VP Al Gore. Forbes said they're all considering, "maybe it's my time."

Forbes also said to watch Secretary of State John Kerry, the Democratic nominee for presidential in 2004.

"The irony is this party that's says it's the party of the future [has many] candidates or possible candidates are all eligible for Social Security," he said.

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