"She refused to behave like a candidate's wife until her husband became a candidate. She was taking our little girl to preschool. She had a 6-month-old baby at the time. She had her priorities straight. She got anonymous phone calls from people telling her why we couldn't run and things like that, which of course made her resolve even stronger, and mine, too. But she refused to go out and defend herself against being a trophy wife or whatever it is they decided to call her. She just let it go. They couldn't understand that," Thompson said.
Thompson said it's not a "fair characterization" to say that she wanted him to seek the presidency. "She wanted me to do what I felt like I ought to do. She thought that I could do some things for the country and I probably ought to step forward, that I was not at my highest and best use, that I could do something for the party and that I could, more importantly, do something for the country."
In Florida, Thompson emphasized what he would do for the country in terms of immigration, visiting with law enforcement on the front lines.
"Can I just say how much I appreciate you sheriffs and what you're doing here. Of course, I just naturally gravitate towards people that believe in law and order," Thompson said jokingly to the group.
He outlined an aggressive immigration reform program, seven points including a hard line against amnesty, attrition through the enforcement of current laws and bolstering border security .
He also used the issue to distinguish himself as more conservative than his Republican competitors Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain.
"I was a conservative yesterday. I'm one today. And I'll be one tomorrow," he said.
Asked about his lack of executive experience that Giuliani had as a mayor or Romney had as a governor, he said, "Management's important, but leadership is more important. Managers are people who leaders hire."
Thompson says his newfound freedom lets him take politically perilous positions, such as grabbing the so-called third rail of American politics — Social Security.
"I've talked about indexing benefits so that they increase with inflation and don't increase with wages, which is what we do now. Dollar for dollar, they'd get the same thing current retirees get, they just wouldn't get more than current retirees get," he said.
It's a complex concept to spell out in a campaign and an easy one for opponents to cast as an attempt to cut Social Security.
"That's why people don't bring it up, so therefore we continue on the current path and we bankrupt the system," he said.
Thompson has also taken some heat from another crucial voting bloc for the Republican Party — evangelical conservatives — for saying he does not often go to church.
Thompson tried to sum up his spirituality. "I think that when a man has been through the heights and depths of life, and when he's had the tragedies and the blessings of life, as I have, I think you develop an even greater sense of what's important and what's not. A person has to realize at some point in his life it's not about him. It's about higher things, and the need to be right with God. And to be right with those who love you. And if you've got that, none of the rest of it matters."