WASHINGTON (CNN) - Promising "common sense conservative positions," former Sen. Fred Thompson declared Wednesday he is running for president in a video posted at midnight on his website.
Hours earlier he told Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show" he was going to seek the GOP presidential nomination.
"My friends, I come to you today to tell you that I intend to run for President," Thompson said in the video message that ran for about 14 minutes. "I feel deeply that I am doing it for the right reasons. I love my country and I am concerned about its future."
He added, "I'm going to give this campaign all that I have to give, and I hope that you will join me."
Thompson sought to demonstrate his conservative credentials by saying he was tough on national security, while serving in the Senate and calling "the great truth" that "every life matters." Trying to sound diplomatic at the same time, he also preached reaching across the aisle to work together to solve America's problems.
"These problems will be dealt with when our leaders come together, as adults, and honestly seek solutions that extend past the next election cycle," Thompson said. "That will happen when, and only when, the American people demand it. You can do that at the ballot box and no election is more important than the one for president."
He described himself as "blessed" when talking about his family and noted that he has lived an "American story," going from working graveyard shifts at a factory to earning a high salary on a top-rated television show. Thompson said when making his decision to run for president, he based it on the answers to two questions.
"What kind of country are our children, grandchildren going to grow up in. And second, how many people have the opportunity to do something about it."
But Thompson couldn't refrain from using the Clintons' name as a rallying point for Republican voters. He mentioned the 1994 election, when Bill Clinton was in the White House and Republicans swept Democrats out of power in the House and Senate.
"In 1994 our conservative principles led us to a comeback and majority control of the Congress," Thompson said. "Now you don't want to have to come back from another Clinton victory. Our country needs us to win next year, and I am ready to lead that effort."
New York Sen. Hillary Clinton is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.
Thompson announced his candidacy at the same time a Republican debate was taking place in New Hampshire.
– CNN Associate Producer Lauren Kornreich