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Fred Thompson on Doug Hoffman

This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," November 4, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Meanwhile, to the White House and another tea party dis, spokesman Robert Gibbs saying today anger gets you just 45 percent. Of course, he was referring to 45 percent of the vote that Conservative candidate Doug Hoffman received in that hotly contested New York congressional race.

Something tells me that Fred Thompson might see things slightly different. He was an early backer of Hoffman, the Republican presidential candidate, co-host of The Fred Thompson Show," joining me right now.

Senator, what do you make of that?

FRED THOMPSON, FORMER REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You talking about New York 23?

CAVUTO: Right, Gibbs essentially saying, well, that is what rage gets you, 45 percent.

THOMPSON: Yes, yes.

Well, 45 percent, 49 percent. It is really remarkable that Doug Hoffman did what he did. You know, he gained about 23 points in about three weeks' time. But it was the only real congressional race that there was. And, at the last minute, the Democrats poured all their resources in there, made a deal with Scozzafava. And she joined the Democrats, and all of that.

And got to give them credit for being able to pull that off. But what is really remarkable, I think, is the showing that Doug Hoffman made up there in the short period of time, without any establishment backing to begin with.

CAVUTO: Well, he had a lot of established guys backing him. You were in there. Sarah Palin was in there. Pawlenty was in there. Rush Limbaugh was in there. And he didn't win. He didn't win. Are you troubled?

(CROSSTALK)

THOMPSON: He was a — he was a long way down the road before I got — I guess mine was the first endorsement. But he was a long way down the road before I stepped in. He had already proven himself, I think, to be a person who could draw broad support.

CAVUTO: Yes.

THOMPSON: And, before long, he had made it so that the Republican nominee, who was a liberal candidate, most liberal candidate in the race, could not win. So, she dropped out.

So, he made a remarkable showing under trying circumstance, and just a citizen politician who had never run for office before. And, you know, I know the Democrats say don't pay attention to the horse; we have got a beautiful mouse here that you ought to look at.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: Yes.

THOMPSON: But...

CAVUTO: Well, you can say what you will, Senator, but Nancy Pelosi didn't waste a nanosecond seizing on this contest. This is what she had to say about it this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-CA, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: From my perspective we won last night. We had one race that we were engaged in that was in northern New York. It was a race where a Republican has held the seat since the since the Civil War. And — and we won that seat.

From our standpoint, no, we — a candidate who was victorious who supports the health care reform.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAVUTO: Now, I know you agree with every — every bit of that, Fred, but to the greater point that maybe this Republican infighting over who the establishment likes and who conservatives like is hurting Republicans and opening up, you know, an opportunity for Democrats.

THOMPSON: Well, the Republicans shot — the Republicans shot themselves in the foot by selecting a liberal nominee, about 11 of them, that wasn't popular among the people. If she had been popular, she would have wound up with more than 5 percent of the vote, which is what she got last night, which is what she — just a little more than before she got out.

The district there is a district that went for Barack Obama. It went for Hillary Clinton when she was running for the United States Senate. And it is one that the Democrats have been targeting from the very beginning. That factored into the president...

CAVUTO: Right.

THOMPSON: ... taking the Democratic congressman out of there and making him secretary of the Army. So, they have been focused on this. They put all their people in there. They brought all the people in from the outside, and they activated them, energized them. And, you know, it's to their credit. And they eked out an election under those circumstances.

But they have an election again next year. And I think the important point here is, not only in that race, but around the nation, we see a lot of people out there who are independents who are fed up and who basically - - all you have got to do is look at right track/wrong track polls in this country. Look at polls in terms of the popularity of Congress.

Look at people's reaction toward the fact that we're spending the next generation's birthright, that, at a time when people are concerned about jobs, that this administration is putting health care — all their chips on health care, as the nation reaches almost 10 percent unemployment.

And you see a — you see a lot of — of good reasons why the independents went 2 to 1 in Virginia.

CAVUTO: No, no, no — no doubt.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: And I don't dismiss anything you're saying or the enormity of what was going on yesterday, but I do want to ask you to follow up on what happened in this Hoffman situation, whether Republicans...

(CROSSTALK)

THOMPSON: Well, I have explained that to you very eloquently.

CAVUTO: Well, don't give me attitude here. I'm just asking you something.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: I'm kidding.

I want to ask you about this tea party movement now to cite 12 Republicans they argue aren't measuring up or meeting these conservative standards and whether you think it is a wise idea to be targeting Republicans, if you want everyone to rally around the flag.

What do you make of that?

THOMPSON: I read something about that. I don't know who they're talking about. I mean, you got to tell me who you're talking about. These circumstances...

CAVUTO: Well, I'm talking about Charlie — I'm talking about Charlie Crist. I'm talking about Mark Kirk. I'm talking about all these prominent Republicans, including Senator Bob Bennett, who they argue are not conservative enough.

Now, that's...

THOMPSON: Every circumstance — I can only speak for myself. I don't have to speak for the Republican Party.

CAVUTO: Right. Right.

THOMPSON: I don't have to speak for — for people attending tea parties. I speak for myself.

When I have a choice between a conservative and a liberal, if both of them have a decent chance of winning, I will choose the conservative every time.

CAVUTO: All right. What I'm asking though, Fred...

(CROSSTALK)

THOMPSON: No, no, no, what I'm asking is, do you think that it divides the — the more conservative vote; then, it's split between the really conservative candidate and the slightly conservative, and then it opens the door for Democrats?

(CROSSTALK)

THOMPSON: Small-bore, you know, party, considerations, I don't know. I mean, I don't have any clue as to in any particular situation what is best for the party. And I don't care. I care about what is best for my country.

I think Republican Party will represent that in most cases. But people are free to make own decisions.

CAVUTO: Yes.

THOMPSON: There are no party — there are no party officials that I know of who ought to be calling the shots for people in these various districts or these various states. They ought to look at the candidates, look at their chances for — to win.

CAVUTO: Then, Fred, let me ask you this.

(CROSSTALK)

THOMPSON: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: No, personal question. If you had a choice, Fred, if you had a choice, if you had a choice, you had a Republican candidate, you had your conservative choice, and you knew that there was a distinct possibility, if you were voting for that conservative candidate, that he or she would be dividing the vote with the Republican one, and giving an opportunity for the Democratic candidate to get in, would you, on principle, be OK with that?

THOMPSON: I said what I believe in the beginning.

If I have a choice between a conservative and a liberal, and both of them have a chance of winning, I will choose the conservative. If you have a liberal Republican and a liberal Democrat and no one else, I will choose the Republican.

If you have two people, with — both with chances of winning, I will choose the one who represents the values that I think are best for my country.

And now that we have got, you know, Fred Thompson's position figured out, let's look at what is happening in the country. People are — people are voting in large numbers based upon what's happening in Washington...

CAVUTO: Right.

THOMPSON: ... and based upon the fact — and based upon the fact that we're spending money that we — that we don't have, and we have got our priorities wrong.

And we're trying to be rushed with regard to policies that we don't believe in. People are responding to that. The Republican Party has to take that into account. We're 24 percent, according to the polls.

CAVUTO: But who are a lot of Republicans — you and I have chatted about this before. And you have been pretty steadfast on this.

But a lot of Americans hear Republicans lecturing these deficits, they — they piled up some big deficits of their own, some big spending of their won. Are they now coming through this like recovering alcoholics and saying, listen to me, I know what it is like, I admit I'm an overspender, I don't want to see this repeated?

What should be the Republican or the conservative position?

THOMPSON: Don't do that.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: There you go. That, I under — that, I understand. That, I understand.

THOMPSON: When I came — when I came — when I came into the Senate in 1995, there were a lot of comparables, I think, to the '94 elections...

CAVUTO: Yes.

THOMPSON: ... when I came in, and I came in '95. We balanced the budget. There's no — with a Democratic president.

So, there's no reason why that can't happen again.

CAVUTO: OK.

THOMPSON: I mean, if Republicans get back into power, they have got to do right, or I won't be supportive of them either.

CAVUTO: OK.

THOMPSON: But, right now, that's — that's not the issue. The issue is that we're lurching so far off the path that got us to be the strongest and most prosperous nation in the history of the world, that all of our concentration now should be on what's best for our country and how can we get back on the right path.

CAVUTO: OK.

THOMPSON: And if Republicans adhere to those principles, and tried- and-true, yes, conservative, commonsense principles, we will be successful.

The big tent analogy is not the correct one. The correct one is a magnet. We ought to be a magnet that draws these independents out there who are sick and tired of what is going on in Washington to our cause.

CAVUTO: OK. All righty, Fred, that, I understand.

Always good seeing you, my friend. Thank you very, very much.

THOMPSON: Thank you. Appreciate it.

CAVUTO: Fred Thompson.

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