This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," October 30, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Now to the "Big Story" about 2008. Somebody has already officially thrown their hat into the ring of presidential contenders, and it is not one of the usual suspects.

Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter just announced he is going to run in 2008. The announcement allows him to start raising money and organizing supporters in early Republican primary states. The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee himself is with us now.

So Mr. Hunter, a lot of people want to know, it's a little early, why now?

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER, R-CALIF.: Well, first, I announced I'm making preparations to run and the formal announcement comes later and that way you get two press conferences. But I'm making preparations to run in '08. And the reason I did it was very simple.

I walk down to the waterfront of my hometown in San Diego every two years just before my election and I layout for my constituents what I plan to do over the next two years. And in the past it's been as a member of the Armed Services Committee working on rebuilding the Navy, on making sure our men and women in uniform have what they need. And this year I had a little something extra, and I thought whether I should wait until the election is over and keep that from my constituents because I planned to do this for quite awhile. And I thought as long as I'm laying out my plans and I plan to be Armed Services Committee chairman because I think the Republicans are going to win and I'm out campaigning for them right now, but the second part is that I am going to be preparing for a race in 2008. I've always put my cards on the table with my constituents and I thought, let's do it. So this morning I did the same thing I've done for 26 years, but the information was a little different.

GIBSON: Congressman, as you know, there are other favorites in the race already. The Boston Herald this morning is promoting a ticket of Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush. So give me your assessment of those competitors.

HUNTER: Well, you know, we have great talent in the Republican Party, so I'm going to let them all speak for themselves. I stand for a strong national defense. I built the San Diego border fence and by the president's signature we're now going to extend that 700 miles through Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. I think border security is now a national security issue. It's no longer primarily an immigration issue.

But I think primarily the American people understand that the next five, 10, 15 years will see national security as the pre-eminent issue for our country because of what's happening in Iran, North Korea, the emergence of China as a new superpower stepping into the old Soviet Union's shoes. I have a lot of interest in that area. I think that's going to be a primary focus. I think I can add something for the country here.

GIBSON: Mr. Hunter, you know those of us in the news business know all those things about you are true. We know your record and we know who you are. We frequently get you on the show. We talk to you as often as we can.

But there's John McCain out there. He ran last time and got beat by President Bush. Everybody knows who he is — Straight Talk Express. He's clearly running already. Don't you have a "Who is Duncan Hunter problem?"

HUNTER: Well, you know, I'm not worried about that right now. What I'm worried about and what I'm working on, of course, is to make sure the Republican team comes across the finish line. In that sense, John McCain and I are joined at the hip. I mean, we're working on national security. That's the main thing that is a legacy of this Republican Congress is that we have built a military second to none in the world. I think the American people understand that and how important that is. So, we have a common voice right now.

When we get past the election we'll start broadening the debate, I'm sure. But right now peace through strength is the message of the Republican Party and John McCain is carrying that around the country. And I've been out to seven states in the last few days and I'm going back out again. We're going to carry that message and make sure that people like Thelma Drake and Rob Simmons up in Connecticut and John Hostettler in Indiana and Mike Sodrel and lots of other Republicans are appreciated by the voters for what they have done for our country.

GIBSON: Mr. Hunter, next Tuesday are you still going to be chairman of your committee? Do you think Republicans are actually going to hold this?

HUNTER: Absolutely. I plan on it.

GIBSON: But Mr. Hunter, the polls say from 20 to 30 Democrats are going to take seats.

HUNTER: Those must be the same polls that said Daniel Ortega would win the last time. I fully intend to be chairman of the Armed Services Committee and you know under the Republican rules I've got two more years. So, my chairmanship expires in 2007. So I think it's absolutely appropriate for the people to know that I'm going to be laying the groundwork to run for president in 2008.

But I think the Republicans will be appreciated by the American people for the fact that we have rebuilt national defense, we've invested $100 billion more per year than the Clinton administration did and in these dangerous times we are the right party.

GIBSON: Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter, thanks very much. We appreciate it.

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