From NBC's Lauren Appelbaum
In a taped interview with Jay Leno, Fred Thompson officially announces he is running for president. "I am running for president of the United States," Thompson said to loud applause at the Tonight Show. He recognized he is starting late in terms of the other candidates, but said it's really not that late.
"Everybody sort of changed the rules. Usually, you don't announce until after Labor Day. But they started running a lot earlier, spending millions of dollars and so forth and everybody said you couldn't run this year without raising a hundred million dollars and starting much earlier. I don't believe that. I wasn't in the room when they made the rules, so I kind of had to follow my own lead."
Thompson said he doesn't "think much of" debates and prefers small groups and one-on-one discussions. "For those who talk about that New Hampshire situation (referring to tonight's Republican debate, which Thompson is skipped), certainly not disrespecting them, but it's a lot more difficult to get on 'The Tonight Show' than it is to get into the presidential debate." And on his opponents, who are debating in New Hampshire this evening, he called them "formidable," but said that he will be as well.
Addressing Iraq, Thompson said he was for the Iraq war."To think that had we not gone in there, we wouldn't have had any problems is dead wrong," Thompson said, stating America has been successful in ridding the country of Sadaam and his two sons and preventing a nuclear race with Iran. "We stay until we get the job done," Thompson said, stating America must show her strength.