Republican Forms Obama Support Group

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This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," August 12, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HEATHER NAUERT, HOST: Fresh from formally endorsing Barack Obama, we are going to talk to one of those Obama-cans. With me now, a former Republican congressman from Iowa, his name is Jim Leach. He served 30 years in the Congress.

Welcome, Mr. Leach. Let me ask you, you were never considered to be a very conservative member of the Republican Party, but nevertheless, why did you decide to abandon your party and support Barack Obama?

JIM LEACH, (R) FMR. IOWA CONGRESSMAN: Well, I think the country is in great difficulty today. In fact, I've never known a time period in which the American brand has been more tarnished in more parts of the world — and the national interest really requires a new approach, new ideas, new energy, a new generation of leadership, and beyond that, let me just say this is the time the country has got to put country before party.

Video: Watch Heather's interview with Jim Leach

NAUERT: And one thing that John McCain has often said is that he puts country first. So, John McCain doesn't achieve that for you?

LEACH: Well, John McCain is a very distinguished American, and he's got a wonderful record of public service. I don't argue with John at all other than on the issues. And on the issues, we really have to change direction, and continuity with the current policies could produce long-term difficulties with the United States. I can't think of anything more dangerous than decades of occupation of a country like Iraq.

NAUERT: So, what is your main beef with the Republican Party or John McCain right now that caused you to go for Barack?

LEACH: Well, I don't have a beef with John. I do have concerns about what I consider to be a lack of philosophical allegiance to historic Republicanism in many of the issues before us today, but I'm also quite struck by the meteoric rise of Senator Obama. It's caught me by surprise. I think it's caught the American public by surprise. But I have little doubt that his is the leadership that is probably best fitting for our country today.

NAUERT: Sir, I was listening into a call that this group had with reporters today and you're on that call. But I get the sense that this is more of a protest vote on the part of Republicans. It sounds like Republicans are more frustrated with the party than they are with John McCain.

LEACH: Well, I think there's some sense for that. There's concern that this will be a third Bush term. But beyond that, I think that you should really understand that there are an awful lot of Republicans in America that do not support our current foreign policy. There are an awful lot of Americans that are very concerned with the enormous deficits that are concerned with the judgments involved in prosecuting a war and paying for it with tax cuts.

NAUERT: Understood. Sir, before we run out of time, let me ask you one important question.

LEACH: Go ahead.

NAUERT: You had mentioned today that you thought that Chuck Hagel, Republican senator out of Nebraska would be a good V.P. pick for John McCain. Do you think that Barack Obama would pick Chuck Hagel?

LEACH: Well, let me say that this is Senator Obama's choice. I just throw out Chuck Hagel because I think he is a terrific American and would be a terrific candidate. There are other fine choices, too. The Democrats have a loaded field today for veep candidates, but I think that Chuck would be a very imaginative, very thoughtful choice.

NAUERT: All right. Well, we will see if Barack Obama is listening to that tonight and whether or not he'll pick a Republican to be his running mate. Thank you so much, Jim Leach from Iowa.

LEACH: Thank you.

NAUERT: Thanks for joining us.

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