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Tommy Thompson to seek Republican nomination

Story Highlights

• Former HHS secretary Tommy Thompson formally announced presidential bid
• Thompson, a Republican, served four terms as governor of Wisconsin
• Thompson said he is "very, very optimistic" about his future
• "I am the reliable conservative, my record shows that," he said
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson officially announced his bid for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination Sunday, telling ABC's "This Week" he is confident about his chances.

"In Iowa, the polls last week came out that I was in fifth place and moving up and at 5 percent," he said, adding that things are starting "to coalesce, and I feel very, very optimistic about my future."

The former four-term governor of Wisconsin set up a presidential exploratory committee in December and filed a statement of candidacy in January. His campaign spokesman said last month that Thompson's formal announcement would come in early April. (Gallery: Possible contenders)

Thompson, a senior partner in a law firm, said he is hoping to appeal to Republicans who feel that other GOP candidates are not conservative enough on economic and social issues.

"I am the reliable conservative, my record shows that," he said. "All that people have to do is look at my record, and I am one individual that they can count on."

Thompson spoke Sunday about his stance on Iraq, saying he believes a timetable for troop withdrawal, as called for by the Democrat-led Congress, would give the terrorists in Iraq an opportunity to "hunker down" and "outlast the Americans." He said he would pull out U.S. troops only at the Iraqi government's request.

Thompson also said he thinks Iraq should be set up like the United States, with Iraq's 18 territories having elected leaders that would report to a federal government.

"The Shiites would elect Shiites, Sunnis would elect Sunnis, Kurds would elect Kurds, and there would be a gravitation of people going to those things, and it would reduce this terrible internecine civil war," he said.

Oil revenues, he said, should be dealt with like the state of Alaska -- one-third should go to the federal government, one-third to the territorial governments, and the remaining third split "to every man, woman and child."

Asked about what he would do for the 47 million Americans not covered by health insurance, the former health secretary said he would allow insurance companies to bid on groups of uninsured Americans to help reduce emergency room visits.

"It's an insurable group because one-third of those individuals between the ages 18 and 35 ... make over $60,000 a year," Thompson said. "It would be a tremendous group."

Thompson made headlines in late 2004, when he was departing his post. "I, for the life of me, cannot understand why the terrorists have not, you know, attacked our food supply because it is so easy to do, and we're importing a lot of food from the Middle East," he said at the time.

Last month, the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general issued a report saying the department has failed to adequately protect the U.S. food supply.

"Most experts we spoke with regarded the food sector as highly vulnerable to attack. They considered food sector security to be less intensive than the security for other critical infrastructures," the audit said.

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