Is John McCain Already Campaigning for 2008?

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," August 25, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: The midterm elections haven't even come and gone but the campaigning has already started for 2008. It is earlier than ever.

A lot of potential presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle have been making their way through states like Iowa and New Hampshire lately — states that hold early primaries and caucuses — and one of them already got one of Iowa's top Republicans behind him, Sen. John McCain.

Iowa State Senator Chuck Larson is with me now. He is a former chairman of the Iowa Republican Party. He is also an army reserve major, who completed a yearlong tour of duty in Iraq.

So, Mr. Larson, you already chose to join up with John McCain. There were a lot of people courting you. I have got a full screen just to illustrate to people who was after you. Look at this: Mitt Romney, George Pataki and John McCain. They were all breathing down your neck. You picked McCain. Why?

SEN. CHUCK LARSON, R-IOWA: John, No. 1 — it's good to be with you today — but for a couple of different reasons, No. 1, Sen. John McCain is a fiscal hawk. Secondly, he is a social conservative, with a 24-year pro-life voting record. But from my perspective, the most important issue, whether it's 2006 or 2008, is going to be national security and the global War on Terror. And Sen. McCain recognizes that we must win this war for our own nation's security.

GIBSON: Sen. McCain has been saying some things of late that make it appear as if he is trying to put, even though he is a war supporter and even though he supported the president on the war, put some daylight between himself and the president. He said that the nation was misled into thinking that it was going to be a day at the beach. It's not a day at the beach. What's the strategy here?

LARSON: Well, I don't think that's the case whatsoever. In fact, Sen. McCain issued a statement today and, again, he has been a staunch supporter of President Bush. He has been a staunch supporter of the global War on Terror and he recognizes, for our nation's security, we have to win. If we were to leave Iraq early, it would do nothing more than create an incredible training ground for terrorists. Plus, they would have $35 million a year in annual oil revenues that could be used to wage a war against us.

GIBSON: Mr. Larson, why all this early maneuvering? It's more than two years out.

LARSON: Well, several of the candidates began reaching into Iowa early, visiting with activists, whatnot. I believe there is very strong interest in 2008 and carrying on President Bush's legacy for this nation.

GIBSON: Does some of it have to do with who is available? I read The New York Times today and I will read this chunk to you, maybe you can tell me if this is actually true. It says that the 20 Democrats and Republicans who are looking at these races have begun to realize there are only so many big-named staff members, contributors and prominent local supporters that are available and they better get them now or they are not going to be available later. Is that what's going on?

LARSON: Well, I think there are a couple factors at play. No. 1, Iowa, as you know, is one of two states that switched in the last presidential election. So, there are a tremendous number of competitive races here in the state. Our gubernatorial race is the No. 1 target for Republicans to take back a governor's seat. And so that's why you are seeing tremendous involvement and investment in the state of Iowa.

But without doubt, the contenders are traveling in Iowa, helping our candidates run for office and we appreciate it. It's been very helpful.

GIBSON: All right. Well, Iowa State Senator Chuck Larson signed up with McCain.

Senator, thanks very much. We will be sure to see you again.

LARSON: Thank you very much, John.

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