Fred Thompson on 'Hannity & Colmes'

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," January 15, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Joining us now is Republican presidential candidate, former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson is with us. Senator, how are you?


HANNITY: We appreciate you being with us. Senator, I think that...

THOMPSON: Good to be here.

HANNITY: People expected it was going to be a little bit closer than it ultimately turned out to be tonight. People thought Senator McCain, mainstream media, was the frontrunner. You're staking out your position in South Carolina. You got a big bump after our debate by going after Governor Huckabee. Are you prepared to take on Senator McCain on some of his issues?

THOMPSON: Well, first of all, congratulations to Mitt Romney tonight. He did what he needed to do. He had a home state advantage. He took advantage of that. It shows his strength and weakness, I think. His strength and weakness both have to do with the fact he's willing to tailor a message to a particular audience. And tonight it worked for him, but people understandably wonder whether or not he's doing that to the nation as a whole because these are newly minted positions he's taken on a lot of conservative issues that he didn't hold just a few years ago.

As far as South Carolina is concerned, we're down here working hard while they've been in Michigan. We're going all across the state. And I've drawn distinctions between myself and not only Mitt Romney but John McCain, did so the other night in the debate. Apparently, didn't get much attention. But I drew the distinction as far as our position on immigration. I think McCain is weak on the issue of illegal immigration, as well as tax cuts, and I've said so on numerous occasions.

HANNITY: Senator...

THOMPSON: But it's not a matter of who you're attacking, it's a matter of who is the one consistent conservative and has the record to back it up in this race.

HANNITY: But you...


HANNITY: I guess — maybe let me ask my question a different way here because you actually went after Mike Huckabee, Governor Huckabee, on specific issues, and you said, That is the Democratic position. A lot of conservatives have had a problem with Senator McCain — McCain-Feingold, limits on freedom of speech, McCain-Kennedy, many viewed it as amnesty, didn't support the Bush tax cuts, "gang of 14," against the marriage amendment.

Are you prepared to take a stronger stand in South Carolina, where Senator McCain is ahead and where it benefited you going after Governor Huckabee, against Senator McCain, who has been your friend?

THOMPSON: You know, nobody is going to tell me who to attack next.

HANNITY: I'm not telling...(LAUGHTER)

THOMPSON: If you're watching these debates, this wasn't — this wasn't my first debate the other night.


THOMPSON: I have been drawing distinctions with Mitt and John and Rudy and Mike across the board. I'm glad somebody was paying attention finally the other night. But this is not the first time that these issues have been discussed with regard to all of these people I'm running against.

I have reiterated again here tonight my differences with Senator McCain on all those issues. You had a litany there, but — on the majority of them anyway.


THOMPSON: I not only take a different position, I cast different votes from him when I was in the Senate. Of course, we're going to be talking about it.

HANNITY: I guess, but then, my question is, if he's going to be the frontrunner and you're taking — you have said, South Carolina is very important to your candidacy here...

THOMPSON: I thought — I thought Huckabee was going to be the frontrunner. Frankly, the other night during that debate, I thought Huckabee would be the frontrunner.


THOMPSON: That's why I thought it was important that we had a little discussion on his record of weakness on the issue of illegal immigration and his high tax record.

HANNITY: All right.

THOMPSON: That's the reason I got into that. I'm still waiting for answers on the NEA endorsement and a few other little things that he doesn't want to talk about, but...


HANNITY: But the frontrunner now though, Senator...

THOMPSON: Beg your pardon?

HANNITY: The frontrunner, according to Real Clear Politics, in South Carolina — and your poll numbers have gone up. The last I looked, I think it went up about 4 points in the latest poll as a media bump after the debate...


HANNITY: ... which is significant. And you're now traveling around the state, like you did in Iowa.

THOMPSON: You don't have to convince me of that.

HANNITY: All right. So — so — well, I'm very well aware, Senator...


HANNITY: But — so my question is, are you going to be a little bit more willing to really take these candidates on?


HANNITY: South Carolina is known for — go ahead.

THOMPSON: You've asked that question three or four different times now, and I've said yes each time.

HANNITY: All right. I got you.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: He's taking Hannity on pretty well there.


COLMES: Senator, it's Alan Colmes. Welcome back to the show. Are you saying that you're the...

THOMPSON: Hello, Alan.

COLMES: Are you the only real conservative in this race?

THOMPSON: Yes, the only consistent conservative who has the record to back it up. I mean, different people have different — different candidates have different pieces of it. No question about it. Almost everybody is talking the talk now, but I was walking the walk before most of them were even talking the talk.

COLMES: You've got an ad out...

THOMPSON: Look at my record.

COLMES: You've got an ad out today...

THOMPSON: I've been strong...

COLMES: Go ahead.

THOMPSON: Beg pardon?

COLMES: I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt you.

THOMPSON: I was just starting to say strong on national defense and experience in that regard, strong on tax cuts, strong on 2nd Amendment, strong on fighting for conservative judges who will apply the law, instead of making it up as they go along, compiling a 100 percent pro-life voting record. No one has all of those points to their past and to their record. Many of them have very little of that in their background.

COLMES: Why is it — Senator, if that's the case, why are you not polling better? For example, the Rasmussen poll out today has you at 16 percent, Romney at 17, Huckabee at 19, McCain at 28. Why aren't you polling better among the very conservatives you're looking to appeal to?

THOMPSON: You know, Alan...


THOMPSON: It doesn't take a lot of talent to read polls, and especially if you're going to get them wrong about half the time. You remember the inevitability of Rudy Giuliani, then the inevitability of Romney? Then they were out of the picture. Then McCain was dead, and McCain was the leader.

I mean, when are we going to move off of that and realize that different people are winning these different races, these different states, and a new one's going to win in South Carolina?

COLMES: I'm talking about the national polls, though. And I mean, obviously, you have to look at those polls...

THOMPSON: Oh, the national polls.

COLMES: ... because that's how you gear your campaign, based on what the polls are saying...


THOMPSON: No, it's a state-by-state deal. And the last one I saw had me virtually tied with Mitt Romney, for example. They're meaningless at this stage of the game. And I'm moving in the right direction. It's all about momentum. And I'm moving in the right direction, as Sean pointed out, you know, here. I'm gaining. Others are losing. We're working hard at it. And we're — you know, we're the guy who what you see is...

HANNITY: Hey, Senator...

THOMPSON: ... what you get and talking about the things we've been talking about all of our public career. And we are doing well down here and going all across the state, back and forth again. Momma and the kids are going to show up tomorrow, and we're going to have a big time and paint this state red, white and blue again.


COLMES: ... Mr. Hannity has got a quick question for you.

HANNITY: Senator...

THOMPSON: Yes, sir?

HANNITY: ... remind me never to debate you. I've agreed with most of your conservative positions!


COLMES: But you have to win South Carolina, right?

THOMPSON: I know that, Sean.

COLMES: South Carolina is must-win for you, correct?

THOMPSON: I know that, Sean, but I'm taking on all comers down here in South Carolina.


COLMES: Is South Carolina must-win for you?

THOMPSON: Well, I need to do very well here, Alan. There's no question about that.

COLMES: All right, Senator. Thanks for being with us.

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