As Americans prepare to vote in next week's legislative election to determine control of Congress, the likely field of candidates for the 2008 presidential contest has grown again. A new name on the list is Duncan Hunter, a Republican from California, who is the first member of the House of Representatives to announce intentions to run for the White House two years from now.
At 58, Duncan Hunter has been in Congress since 1980 when he was elected as part of a Republican electoral wave that brought former President Ronald Reagan to power.
Hunter is best known as perhaps the strongest supporter in the House of Representatives of President Bush on Iraq, Afghanistan and the war on terrorism, and has a son who has served two tours of duty in Iraq.
With 13 terms in the House, he is a Vietnam war veteran, who has chaired the House Armed Services Committee since 2003, a position he would have to relinquish if Democrats take control of the House of Representatives in the November 7th congressional election.
His announcement [Monday] at a news conference in San Diego, took many political observers by surprise.
"As I finish my final two years as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and serve you, I am also going to be preparing to run for President of the United States in 2008," he said.
In the course of congressional career, Hunter has built a reputation as a hardliner on military matters and such issues as legislation, recently signed by President Bush, establishing guidelines for the treatment of suspected terrorists.
"In time of war, it is not practical to apply the same rules of evidence that we do in civilian trials or court martials for our troops," he said.
Hunter also took strong positions on legislation reorganizing the U.S. intelligence system and creating a national intelligence director, arguing that bureaucratic changes should not make the job of U.S. personnel more difficult.
Recently, Congressman Hunter was at the center of a dispute with CNN after the television network broadcast video showing insurgents shooting at U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
He called the video enemy propaganda and asked the Pentagon to ban CNN journalists from being embedded with U.S. military units.
Hunter coupled his announcement with criticism of what he called political liberals, a reference to opposition Democrats, he asserts are hurting U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"One, two, three: stand up the free government, we have done that," he said. "Stand up the military that can protect it, we are doing that in Iraq and Afghanistan. And number three, the Americans leave. Now which is it, the one, the two or the three that the liberals don't understand?"
Hunter has also taken a hard line on illegal immigration, and backed legislation, signed recently by President Bush, to add about 1,100 kilometers of fencing to the U.S. border with Mexico.
The announcement of a possible White House run puts Hunter on a list of at least 20 names of potential Democrat and Republican competitors in 2008.
The list of lawmakers from the House of Representatives who have run for president is shorter, and includes Ohio Democrat Dennis Kucinich in 2004 and Missouri Democrat Dick Gephardt the same year and in 1996.