Hunter trumpets defense, values, fair trade in White House bid
Rep. Duncan Hunter considers himself the Republicans’ best bet to reconstitute the blue-collar coalition that helped the party win the White House in the 1980s.
Mr. Hunter, who is seeking the presidential nomination in 2008, says he can rebuild that coalition by campaigningondefense,traditional values and fair trade.
“Keeping American jobs in this country is a strong tie between the Republican Party and working America, Main Street America — that’s a portion of our constituency I aim to retrieve, because I stand strong with them,” the 13-term congressman from California said in a recent interview, pointing to votes against almost every free-trade agreementduringhis26yearsinthe Capitol.
Mr. Hunter, the first to announce officially that he is exploring a run for president, presents a curious fig- ureamongbetter-knowncandidates.
Combinedwithatoughstanceon bordersecurity—hewastheauthor of the original amendment proposing 700 miles of border fence included in the House’s 2005 immigration bill — he fills a niche among the candidates lining up for a presidential run.
“I stand for a strong national defense, strong border enforcement, fiscal conservatism and traditional values,andlastly,keepingAmerican jobsonshore,”hesaidashesprawled in an armchair in his Capitol Hill office during the interview, propping one foot on the edge of his cluttered desk.
Mr. Hunter said he expects the next election to turn on security. He said his experience as an Army Ranger during the Vietnam War and as the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee puts him squarely in the middle of that debate.
“I think it’s going to be a dangerous world. I think that’s going to haveourattention,andIthinkwe’re goingtoseeadangerouscentury,”he said.
Mr. Hunter is the most conservative candidate to enter the field so far, and is as conservative as any of the others mentioned as poten- tial candidates. He touts his sponsorship of the Right to Life Act, which effectively would outlaw abortion by specifying that a person exists at the moment of fertilization, for the purposes of 14th Amendment protections.
Mr. Hunter easily has won reelectioninhisSanDiego-basedcongressional district every election since his first, with the exception of a tight race in 1992 after redistricting and revelations of overdrafts at the now-defunct House bank.
His biggest challenges will be gaining name recognition and raising money. He has not been known as a prolific fundraiser on the scale of other announced candidates, but hehaspledgedtomakeaseriouseffort in early primary and caucus states.
Mr.Huntermadehispreliminary announcement before the midterm elections Nov. 7 and, in the weeks since, raised his profile on television and in radio interviews.
Sincetheelections,bothSen.John McCain, Arizona Republican, and formerNewYorkMayorRudolphW. Giuliani have formed exploratory committees on races for president.
Mr. Hunter said he will make a formal announcement later, joking that this way he gets two press conferences out of it.
Mr. Hunter has been involved in manybigdefense-policyfightsofthe past few years. He was one of the strongest supporters of the way U.S. troops performed at the detention center at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
In one memorable press conference at the Capitol, he brought a plate with lemon chicken, rice and the rest of the food that terror-war detainees were fed.
Mr. Hunter also took on the White House over women in combat and helped lead the opposition that blocked passage of the intelligence-overhaul bill in 2004 until the White House agreed to allow the defense intelligence agencies continued latitude to operate.
Rep. Duncan Hunter