From NBC's Lauren Appelbaum
On the second day of Fred Thompson's official campaign, the Republican presidential hopeful held his first town hall -- but with auditorium seating instead of the audience-friendly round stage many candidates have used. The question-and-answer session forced Thompson to address issues, including healthcare, homosexuality, and energy independence. A room at the Sioux City, Iowa, convention center was filled with about 150 to 175 people. There were about 100 seats set up and some stood in doorways.
Thompson got a wide range of questions, including one from a man in the audience who asked what "society's position should be on deviances including homosexuality." Thompson answered by saying the federal government should "show no favor for any particular class of citizen" and "not set aside categories for special treatments."
Thompson later addressed the federal marriage amendment. "I would support a constitutional amendment which says some off-the-wall court decision in one state that recognizes a marriage in that state like Massachusetts, just to pick a state, cannot go to another state and have it recognized in that state. You are not bound by what another state does." Thompson added, "My amendment would also state that judges could not impose this on the federal or state level unless a state legislature signed off on it."
Like yesterday, Thompson devoted a large portion of his opening speech to national security, but today he also talked of new support coming from the Iraqis, who he says have had a taste of Al Qaeda and are now siding with American forces. Speaking to reporters, Thompson attacked his Democratic counterparts for not seeing any positive change. "There are some folks on the Democratic side who have become so vested politically on the feelings of the left wing of their party that no good news is going to be good enough for them, and they'll constantly concentrate on the negativity. But again, we all have to look down the road, what is going to make a more secure situation for the United States of America."
Thompson continued to stress he is a "common sense conservative," called for smaller government and said he is for "standing tall" for Second Amendment rights, anti-abortion rights, lower taxes, more individual, political and market freedom, and free and fair competition and trade.
On healthcare, Thompson called for a "divorce [from] the complete dependency so many have on their employment" for health care. He proposes an open marketplace situation that would provide individual freedom and competition to drive down the prices. He dismissed the idea of universal health care, saying many European countries are trying to get rid of the system and move toward America's current health-care policies.
On why he's seeking the presidency. "I was blessed, as you can see, later in life, with something I hadn't planned on, but something that's been the greatest blessing imaginable to me," Thompson said of having children. "But it causes me to think what kind of a world, what kind of a country, will these kids grow up in. How many daddies get a chance to do something about it?"
"I could sit back and read somebody else's scripts, cash somebody else's checks, and that's enjoyable and I highly recommend it if you get the opportunity," Thompson added. "But this is something different."
During the town hall, Thompson's daughter wandered onto the stage and hugged her father's leg. The audience applauded her interpretation of an elephant before she returned to the side of the stage with her mom and younger brother.
After speaking, Thompson spent time signing autographs and talking with members of the audience. A parent brought her child over to Thompson, telling him the child loves the movie "Baby's Day Out." Thompson, who played an FBI agent in the film, held the child and talked about the "Tick Tock," the home of the bad guys in the movie. The child gave him a kiss in response.
Another child asked Thompson what would happen to "Law and Order" if he became president. Thompson said he hopes the re-runs keep playing. "Every time they re-run one, they got to send me like five dollars or something," Thompson said to a rousing round of laughter, "so you keep watching."