NEWINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., held the very powerful post of chairman of the House Armed Services Committee before the Democrats took control of Congress this year. While he remains the ranking Republican on that committee, Hunter now says he wants to serve the country in a different way -- as its president.
He announced his candidacy last Thursday in South Carolina and kicked off his New Hampshire campaign at Wilcox Industries in Newington Monday. Wilcox is a major defense contractor involved in manufacturing high-tech equipment for the military's Special Forces units.
"I want to be president," Hunter said Monday. "I want to lead this country and make sure our people are secure."
Hunter said he will pursue three specific goals as president: develop a strong national defense, secure the country's southern borders and develop a trade policy that supports American workers.
"The arsenal of democracy is our ability to make things," Hunter said. "That was the key to our winning World War I, World War II and the Cold War."
However, Hunter said when his committee was seeking a company to construct heavy steel plates to protect military vehicles operating in the Middle East, only one firm capable of doing the job was found.
"That arsenal is being threatened" by the flow of jobs out of this country, he said.
Hunter also said arsenal is being threatened by bad trade deals the current and former administrations have made, particularly with China, which he claims is "illegally" subsidizing its products.
"As president, I'm going to change the trade deals so that I can look in the faces of American workers and know they have a fair chance to win (in the international competition for contracts)," Hunter said.
Hunter said China is arming and preparing to step into the Superpower shoes vacated by the Soviet Union. He contended the U.S. should not help China in those efforts by allowing illegal trade deals to continue.
The congressman, who said he got the border fence south of San Diego built and helped put the extension of that fence along the country's southwestern border into law, sees illegal immigration as a national security issue. He contended that 155,000 people arrested last year attempting to illegally cross into the U.S. from Mexico were not Mexican.
"(Building the fence) says to the world, źIf you want to come to the United States, knock on the front door because the back door is closed,'" Hunter said.
Hunter said he recognizes he is not one of the frontrunners for his party's presidential nomination in 2008. However, based on the response he said he has received since formally announcing his candidacy last week, he thinks his chances are better than good.
"If you have the message, you will get the votes, and I have the message," he said. "If we can get that message out, we will win."
Hunter said he sees the New Hampshire race as an important part of this strategy.
"This state is small enough so that we can get our message out," he said. "You can talk to people, just like I'm doing today."