HH: Joined now from the great state of Tennessee, Congressman Zach Wamp. Congressman, good to have you on.
ZW: Hey, same to you. Thank you, sir.
HH: Now I asked you to come on, because we’ve got to get to the bottom of this Fred Thompson boom here, and you’re his number one backer up there on the Hill. Tell us what’s going on in the former Senator’s thinking right now.
ZW: Well, I think he’s doing a whole lot more than thinking, but these are announcements that he’ll have to make in his own due time. And when I spoke to him first in December, I don’t think this really was at the forefront of his thoughts. And now, it is very, very much at the forefront of his thoughts, because the need is there, the timing is good. But he has responsibilities from Law and Order to the Paul Harvey Show that he has to meet. He’s coming here on April the 18th to meet with many, many members of Congress that are either interested in endorsing him, or talking to him about supporting him. I’m like drinking out of a fire hose now, because there’s so much support for him, and I think it’s a combination of two things. One, he’s a natural leader, and everybody knows it, and he’s got extraordinary timing. He served eight years with a great record in the Senate. But now, the need is there, and people feel it. They want a leader that they can trust, that is strong and decisive, that has a good, strong conservative record, and in all fairness to these other people in the Republican primary for president, they’re not getting any traction. Some people have said you think he waited too late. Well no, I think the other people got in too early.
HH: Now Congressman Wamp, you’ve got obviously a lot of enthusiasm among conservative grass roots out there. But does that become money, because this is a very expensive proposition.
ZW: Well, it is, and you know, in the history of our state, Tennessee’s had a couple of national finance chairmen for the party. Lamar Alexander ran for president and raised $25 million dollars. I believe the apparatus will be in place if Fred Thompson decides for sure to run. I think there’s a very strong chance that that happens. He will be able to raise the money. And frankly, right now, most importantly, he’s in 11 million homes every week with Law And Order right now. He’s doing the Paul Harvey show, which is really a better gig than these other candidates have trying to get their message across right now in terms of talking to the American people at their level. I was in Granger County, Tennessee, yesterday. The Democrat county mayor said to me did you hear Fred Thompson on the Paul Harvey show this morning? And I said no, and he told me almost verbatim everything he said. Well, that’s a pretty good reach when you’re out there in grass roots America, just talking, doing the Paul Harvey show on common sense solutions to our country’s problems. I think he’s getting a whole lot of mileage out of the work that he’s doing right now without raising or spending any political money. And frankly, the people are kind of tired of all the campaign spending, so I think he’ll be able to be strong. He’s got some time, but the interest is there, the need is there, there’s a whole lot of enthusiasm, so Hugh, I think this thing’s really got legs.
HH: Now you’ve got a couple of big Tennessee names like Ted Welch, who was, in fact, the guy who tagged me to donate to Lamar Alexander in ’96. He’s working for Romney right now, Marsha Blackburn working for Romney. Do you expect them to say see ya, Governor, I’m going over to Fred’s campaign if he declares?
ZW: Well, this is a long campaign. It got started early, the media’s been focused on it. I think there’s a whole lot of turns in the road between here and there. So I do expect that when and if Fred Thompson enters the race, that you’ll see a lot of people close ranks. And you’ve already seen some people in the House that made early commitments to other candidates say wait a second. If Fred Thompson runs, I’m changing. And I think you’ll see a lot of that.
HH: Is Marsha one of them? Marsha Blackburn?
ZW: She’s not one of those. She’s committed to Romney, but you know, you’ve got to wait and see how this whole thing plays out. I think ultimately, Fred Thompson gets in, everybody in Tennessee, virtually everybody in the South, I think, closes ranks around him.
HH: Now when do we hear? When does he really have to fish or cut bait?
ZW: I can’t make that announcement, but I think he’s in the middle of making that gut level decision, and that may take a few weeks, but he has a lot of business he has to wrap up. He can’t walk off the set of Law And Order. He’s got this commitment to the Paul Harvey show. I think he can wait, you know, into and through the summer without actually being too late. But again, I think the other people, frankly, got in too early. They went up, and they’re coming backwards. The whole field is coming backwards right now, so I think he’s got time, especially given the venue that he has to get his message across. But he’s going to come here in April, tremendous support already building, I think through May and June is the decision time, permanently. But I think the conversations are underway. But I do think it’ll be mid-summer to late summer before you see a full blown Fred Thompson campaign, if it happens.
HH: Where does he make his home now, Congressman?
ZW: He goes back and forth between Washington and Nashville, but he works in New York.
HH: Okay, well, we’ve got to get his number from you, because we’ve got to get him on the phone and start talking policies and positions with him. So appreciate your giving us the update, Congressman Wamp, and we’ll continue to check in with you, and hopefully with Fred Thompson as that boomlet continues to build.
End of interview.