Duncan Hunter's Long Trip: So. Cal to D.C.
ALISON STEWART, host:
With the presidential primaries around the corner, candidates are crisscrossing the country trying to make sure America knows who they are and what they're about. So for the past couple of weeks, we've been exploring who the candidates are from the ground up, how they're perceived in their home states. And today, we explore the home town take on GOP presidential candidate Duncan Hunter.
Here's what we do know. Hunter is serving his 14th term in Congress and he's the highest ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee. He served San Diego and he's made illegal immigration a major part of his campaign. But I'd be willing to wager that most of you out there don't know a whole lot more about this presidential candidate. So here to fix that is John Marelius, political reporter for the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Mr. JOHN MARELIUS (Political Reporter, San Diego Union-Tribune): Good morning.
STEWART: How is Duncan Hunter perceived in San Diego? Do San Diegans think that Duncan Hunter doesn't have a chance in the race for the White House?
Mr. MARELIUS: In a word, yes. I don't know anybody who does. I think most people, even his supporters, we view this as - they view this as something of a lark. It was very sudden decision many - he'd never talked about running for president so far as I know. And just all of a sudden, one day about a year ago, in a very, very hastily arranged event, announced that he wasn't going to run for reelection and was going to run for president instead.
STEWART: For a relatively educated American voter who plans on voting in the GOP primary, what do we need to know about Duncan Hunter that we might not already about his platform?
Mr. MARELIUS: Well, actually his - probably his signature issues beside from the border fence and immigration are national defense and trade. He has sort of a blue-collar populous streak in him. He's very - economic conservative, social conservative, but he kind of runs afoul of the local business community, or at least a lot of it, because he has very strong opposition to most trade agreements.
He voted against NAFTA. He - every campaign speech is devoted heavily to trade with China and his contention that the Chinese are engaging in unfair trading practices. And this seems to be sort of personal obsession with Hunter, if you will, because I haven't heard any of the other candidates that you can take about trade with China. And of course, until the Democrats regained control of Congress, he was chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and so he's been very influential on, you know, defense policy over the years.
STEWART: And San Diego is a military town, we should point out.
Mr. MARELIUS: Yes, not as much as it used to be. You know, the military probably some decades ago was probably a backbone of the local economy and given population growth and new industries, you know, tourism is more of a dominant industry by now than the military, but they're still a very strong military presence.
STEWART: Speaking of the military, Mike Huckabee, another GOP candidate, has suggested that he - if he were to win the primary, if he were to win the nomination, he might appoint, well, if he were to win the presidency rather, he would appoint Duncan Hunter as secretary of defense. Have you heard that?
Mr. MARELIUS: Yes, I did. You know, people run for presidents for a lot of reasons other than really being convinced he's going to be president and developing a similar higher profile is one of them.
STEWART: And you could see that being a good fit? You could see that being something he might be interested in?
Mr. MARELIUS: Well, it's hard to say. I don't see why he wouldn't. Yet, it's very much in keeping with his interest and his background.
STEWART: How is he been perceived at home as a congressman? He's been reelected several times. Has he delivered for his district?
Mr. MARELIUS: I think on ballots, you'd have say he has. It's, you know, his district is actually east of San Diego now in the - after the latest redistricting so it's very, very conservative territory. So, you know, he sets his district quite well.
STEWART: Do you expect him to go the distance or do you anticipate him dropping out anytime soon? What's his funding like? What his war chest like?
Mr. MARELIUS: Minimal. And he keeps a very light campaign schedule in terms of public appearances which, you know, he gets to go to all the debates and all the candidate forums, but beyond that he has a rather like campaign schedule which tells me he has to (unintelligible) his resource just to be able to afford his place there. You know, I mean, you know, as I indicated earlier, running for president is a pretty good soap box for these people. And whether he would want to stay in, at least, until the California primary, there are several more debates coming up, wouldn't surprise me, even if he doesn't appear to be going anywhere in the early stage.
STEWART: Lastly, as a political reporter on the ground, what can you reveal to us about Duncan Hunter that we don't know, that something that only a political reporter on the ground in California would be able to tell us about Duncan Hunter, some deep dark secrets. I don't if he has any, but some weird personal hygiene, nervous twitches, favorite snacks, anything you've picked up.
Mr. MARELIUS: Well, I mean, he's an avid outdoorsman.
STEWART: Is he?
Mr. MARELIUS: Oh, yeah. He wants to go hunting. I mean that's his favorite thing to do in the whole world and, you know…
STEWART: Not Mitt Romney style, like he really does go hunting.
Mr. MARELIUS: Oh, yeah. And, you know, hunting is not something that interest me, but people I know who got on trips with him say he's great fun to be around. They just sort of agreed at the beginning of the weekend, okay, we're not going to talk politics.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. MARELIUS: And…
STEWART: We're just going to shoot stuff.
Mr. MARELIUS: …he's very engaging guy and he's, you know, a lot of fun to be around under those circumstances.
STEWART: Is he good with the press?
Mr. MARELIUS: He sort of blows hot and cold. I've always gotten along very well with him but he's been known to just get mad at somebody for whatever reason or would refuse to talk to them for a while and…
STEWART: Oh, he holds a grudge.
Mr. MARELIUS: He's been known to.
STEWART: John Marelius, political reporter for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Thanks very much for illuminating us about GOP presidential candidate Duncan Hunter.
Mr. MARELIUS: Yes, my pleasure.
STEWART: Take care.
Mr. MARELIUS: Thank you.
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