Q&A: Republican Presidential Candidate Duncan Hunter

(AP)
In Florida for the Republican debate we caught up with Congressman Duncan Hunter and chatted about conservative support and why he thinks the party won't nominate someone who isn't pro-life.

Rep. Duncan Hunter: Well I let all the other candidates talk about their credentials and their backgrounds and their plans for the country. But I have made the point that I've been consistently pro-life. I believe that's a very important part of the Republican Party, a cornerstone of our party, and a strong part of my belief. And that I strongly support the traditional marriage.

And as a member of the Armed Services Committee, until this year the chairman of that committee, I've worked hard to make sure that we don't have abortions in military hospitals. That we do not allow open homosexuals to serve in the armed forces. That we don't inhibit our chaplains from praying according to their own conscious...So I've had fairly strong positions with respect to social issues the last 26 years and I haven't changed those positions.

CBS News: I've talked to a lot of Florida voters here and they've said immigration is a huge issue for them. And it's obviously a central issue for you. Can you explain to me why, then, when I ask these voters who they're going to vote for, they're not saying your name, even though you probably consider yourself the most qualified on the issue?

Hunter: Well most of them I think that know what I do – we've got, in the straw polls where we're able to get our messages out, like Texas, like Arizona, like South Carolina, we do very well. The problem is you've got hundreds of millions of people in this country and you've got to get your name out to them.

CBS News: Is it a money issue?

Hunter: No, it's a matter of time and work. When you embark on a national campaign from a position in which you're a congressman, one of many congressman in one state, and you have to spread that word throughout the United States, it's a lot of hard work, a lot of elbow grease, a lot of speeches and debates. That's why I'm here. It's not a problem in terms of connecting with voters.

A lot of the support for early candidates is largely based on name identification. You've got people for whom gun control is the most important issue in their political agenda, saying at this point they're going to vote for Mr. Giuliani. They've heard the name, they don't know that he's fairly strong on gun control. So as the voters start to look at issues, I think that I do better…

We're carrying our message of a strong national defense. Enforceable borders. And I built the border fence in San Diego and I wrote the law that extends it across Arizona and New Mexico and Texas for 854 miles. And bringing back high paying manufacturing jobs in this country. And I think that those issues have good traction. They're attractive to the American people.

CBS News: If the Republicans ultimately nominate a socially moderate candidate, do you think that conservatives should consider a third party candidate?

Hunter: Well, first, I challenge the premise of your question. Because more than two-thirds of the Republican electorate is pro-life. So you're asking me to presume that the Republican Party, which is dominated by people who are pro-life, would nominate somebody who is not pro-life. I don't think that happens.

CBS News: Well, the frontrunner right now is not considered – if you want to call Giuliani the frontrunner he's not considered to be particularly strong from a pro-life perspective and certainly on other social issues.

Hunter: Well I think, as I said, people are giving their poll responses based on name identification, based on favorable images that they have of candidates. So I think a lot of people don't know the social positions of the various candidates. I simply do not see a party which has a large majority which is dominated by folks who are pro-life nominating somebody who is not. I think that's going to be difficult. And a majority of them are for the right to bear arms, strong proponents of the second amendment. Nominating somebody who's not for that position would fly in the face of reason.