As I sat down in Chris Chocola's Bristol home, he was philosophic about losing his Congressional seat in 2006.
“You know, I don't miss Congress so much -- I miss some of the people,” he clarifies. “I miss some of the policy issues that I was involved with.”
Chris is now in private business, but still feels he can make a difference.
“One of my pet peeves is when politicians say they're going to help create jobs -- really the private sector does that, and it’s nice to be back in the private sector trying to help companies grow.”
He believes his loss was, in part, because Republicans fell out of favor in 2006.
“Well I think the ‘06 election … Republicans were a brand. And there were so many things going on, with some of the scandals in Washington -- Mark Foley, Duke Cunningham. The spending, I think, was, in this area, one of the most disappointing things that people who had voted for Republicans before … they felt like the spending had gotten out of control, and I think it had,” Chocola admits.
And he says the Republicans could suffer the same fate in ‘08.
“I think the Republican brand has still got a lot of challenges,” he says. “Certainly coming in after a Republican administration, with another Republican, I think, historically, is always hard.”
And Chocola is impressed by the upcoming presidential election that gave Indiana a voice and has people excited.
“My daughter is in college -- a lot of the college kids are very excited about this election, and so I think that the enthusiasm that Barack Obama has brought to the election and the campaign process has been tremendous. He's a very appealing candidate and I think that he has a very good chance to win.”
Having said that, this Mitt Romney supporter is now supporting John McCain.
“I don't agree with every position he takes, but I think he’s really good on the global war on terror and I think he's good on spending as well,” Chocola explains.
And whether we went in for all the right reasons or not, Chocola sees some improvements in Iraq and believes it's critical we succeed.
“I think the global war on terror is a generational struggle that will probably go beyond our lifetime,” he predicts. “Hopefully our kids will see a diminishment.”
I asked Chris whether he thought taking the speculation out of oil would help stabilize the rising energy costs.
“I think the free markets have to operate. I'm a free market guy,” he responded. “You can artificially try to interfere for a period of time, but the bottom line is that energy is a commodity in many respects.”
He says we have to increase our supply, and thinks drilling in places like ANWR and the outer continental shelf may be the answer.
“We have an abundance of oil in those places that we can extract at minimal environmental cost or invasiveness, and we ought to be more self reliant,” he explains. “I think we have to look at coal and nuclear energy and wind and solar, but I think we have to look at the reality that we’re buying oil from people that don't like us much.”
He says we need a comprehensive energy policy that rises above politics and actually addresses our needs.
But Chocola believes there is an even bigger problem facing our next president: unfunded liabilities.
“By 2030 we will have more costs in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and interest then we will have in federal revenue, so that means there’s no Department of Defense, there's no Department of Agriculture, no Department of Education, no department of anything if we don't address these issues now,” Chocola warns. “These are promises we've made to current and future generations for these programs. We have no idea how to pay for it.”
“If we don't deal with these issues today, it's going to be a very painful future, and things like the war on terror aren't going to matter much because we can't even afford a military, and so that is the greatest threat to our nation.”
A threat he will continue to work toward outside Washington, while hoping that his record in Congress speaks well of his time there.
“I went there with principles, and I think I left there with principles.”
While he supports John McCain, Chocola thinks his first choice, Mitt Romney, would still make a good vice president.
As a fellow CEO, he thinks Romney could help manage what he calls “the largest organization on earth.”
As far as a running mate for Barack Obama, Chocola says that while Obama and Clinton might be able to garner a lot of votes, he thinks it could leave some people wondering who's the boss, and that Obama might do better choosing a running mate who could help him with a state he needs to win.
Click here to read part one of my conversation with Chris Chocola.