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Congressman Duncan Hunter on his presidential bid

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HH: I’m Hugh Hewitt with Congressman Duncan Hunter, ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, candidate for president of the United States. Congressman, good to have you back, thank you for being here.

DH: Hey, great to be with you, Hugh.

HH: Congressman, let’s start by telling people what your website is for the presidential campaign.


HH: How did the first quarter fundraising go, Congressman?

DH: Well, we raised, Hugh, right at, in fact, a little bit more than half a million bucks, and I know the other guys who have been working this thing for a year or two have, oh, they’ve called in with numbers of $15 and $20 million dollars. But you know something? We were outspent ten to one in the South Carolina straw poll, and Mr. Romney had wall to wall television going until the polls closed. We beat him two to one, and we tied McCain and Giuliani at the top with 22%, even though they also outspent us by about ten to one. So that shows that we’ve got great traction in this campaign. We’re doing good.

HH: Now every day, Congressman, I get letters from Duncan Hunterites who say you know, you’ve got to get Congressman Hunter on, and I tell them we’ve had him on, we’ll have him on again. Who’s making up your campaign grass roots?

DH: Well, we’ve got a great…you know, it’s interesting. Since the numbers came out yesterday, and we were on a radio show, we said hey, people, send in your $25, $50 dollars, $100 dollars, we brought in $23,000 dollars yesterday just from people sending in small donations from around the country. So we’ve got a great grass roots organization, lots of folks who believe in a strong national defense, having an enforceable border, building that border fence, and lastly, bringing back high-paying manufacturing jobs to this country that we’ve pushed offshore with bad trade deals. So we’ve got lots of great people across the country, and you know, they’re turning, too, Hugh. They’re helping us a lot. We’re going to…we’re looking very closely at the straw poll in Iowa. In fact, I’m in Iowa right now heading to Chester, Iowa, and that straw poll is going to be in August, all the guys will be in there playing. We’ll also be in the Texas straw poll, and South Carolina’s going to have a couple more. So we’re working away at a grass roots level, things are going very well.

HH: Congressman Hunter, the student of politics that I am, I know that if someone’s going to come out of the second tier and jump into the first tier, they’ve got to muscle aside the other guys in the second tier, and that would be, in your case, Sam Brownback and Tom Tancredo. How do you get the Tancredo and Brownback people to come to work for Hunter?

DH: Well, you know, I’m a good friend of Tom’s, and I know Sam Brownback well, a good guy. And we have a lot of the same convictions and same values. I think that everybody’s an independent contractor, Hugh, and you’ve got to let everybody play their game, and follow their course. But you know, I think that in South Carolina, at least, when we worked hard there and focused on our message, we came out just six votes behind John McCain, tied, really, within one percentage point at 22%, with McCain and Giuliani. Romney had roughly half the votes we had at 11 percentage points, and I think Sam Brownback was at 12. And Sam was in there heavy, he was working with his great precinct organization. Tom was a little bit below that. All of us are hoping, of course, we’re all working to get traction, get our campaigns to go, but I think we’ve got good compatibility, and I think we all support a lot of the same values. I’m a little different from Sam on illegal immigration, as you know. At least the statements I’ve seen, he, at least initially, supported the McCain-Kennedy bill, which I didn’t support. But I think we’ve got a lot of common ground in the social areas, and I think you just have to rely on your friends and people who share your principles coming aboard when the smoke clears.

HH: Now I mixed it up with Tom Tancredo a little bit yesterday, Congressman, because he’s running for the presidency, but he won’t renounce running for the House in ’08. And I don’t view that as a real deal. If you’re going for the presidency at the same time you’re on the ballot, I don’t think you ought to be pursuing two offices. You have retired. I mean, you’ve announced you’re quitting, right?

DH: That’s it. I think it’s tough to keep one foot in both places. You know, I do everything 110%, Hugh, and when I got into this race to run for the House in 1980, I was in a 2-1 Democrat district, 29% Republican. I gave it everything I had. In fact, I sold my house to run for Congress, I couldn’t raise any money. And we went out and we did everything we could. And I’ve got a great wife. I came home and she said you did what? I said well, we sold the house, honey. It’s going to be okay. But you know something? We’re giving it 110%. I have my great son who’s done two tours in the Marine Corps in Iraq, come down and run that South Carolina operation. And let me tell you, he went up against 550 political consultants, Mr. Romney had tons of people hired on payroll, and old Captain Hunter waded into him, and we beat the Romney camp 2-1, and that was a straw poll where people had to actually go out to their voting precincts, to their regular voting places, in a driving rainstorm, and vote for the candidate of their choice. I think that was a good indicator of where the values are, at least in that important early primary state.

HH: Now is Captain Hunter…

DH: I’ve left my office, and we’re going to give it 110% in this race for president.

HH: Now is that Captain Hunter, the Marine, the same one who’s going to run for your seat?

DH: You know, Hugh, he told me he’s going to run for my seat whether I leave it or not. That’s why I’m getting out of there. He could beat me.

HH: (laughing) Okay, well, we’ll come back to that subject another day, whether or not he’s got opposition. Let me ask you about Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, in which you still serve, going to Syria, Duncan Hunter.

DH: You know, there was a great Democrat statesman named Scoop Jackson, Senator Jackson from the state of Washington, who said in national security matters, the best politics is no politics. And the idea of a Speaker who’s been very contentious, who’s attacked the President regularly, going off to foreign countries, giving them the impression that there’s really two foreign policies in this country, theirs and the President’s, I think is a bad thing for our country. And you know, and I think John Tower said the same thing, that when foreign policy leaves our shores. It should leave with one voice. And so I don’t think this is good, and it gives the impression that we’ve got a fractured country in terms of our foreign policy. And I just wish that…and you know, Sam Rayburn was another great Speaker of the House who always backed up the president whether it was Democrat or Republican. When that president made a statement on foreign policy, Sam Rayburn backed him up. Now Sam Rayburn fought him hard on social issues or on domestic issues, but he backed up the president as commander in chief. I wish that Nancy Pelosi would look at that tradition, and change her ways.

HH: Ten seconds, Duncan Hunter. The website again?

DH:, and you can do a lot, send in your money, folks, and get those $50 dollars in on your credit card, and that’ll help me stand up to these big money boys who are calling in their millions as we speak.

HH: Congressman Hunter, always a pleasure.

End of interview.


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