Rep. Peter King Mulls 2016 Presidential Bid

Image: Rep. Peter King Mulls 2016 Presidential Bid

Wednesday, 17 Jul 2013 09:49 PM

By John Gizzi

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In a recent political development that could only be called surprising, Newsmax has learned that U.S. Rep. Peter King, past chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, is being encouraged by friends in and outside the Empire State to seek the GOP nomination for president in 2016.

Several of those friends said the popular Republican — who turned 69 in April and is now in his 11th term as congressman from New York's Third District — has returned the show of support with a strong maybe.

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King, one of the House's most vocal national security advocates, is said to be concerned about the declining preparedness situation and economic malaise he sees the nation facing after President Barack Obama has been twice-elected.

"I saw Peter last week and he certainly didn't rule [a presidential run] out," said one source close to the congressman who requested anonymity. "A lot of folks are telling him to do it and he sure acts interested."

King has a base of support, including wealthy donors, in New York and across the country for his strong stance in dealing with terrorism and homeland security issues. In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing and the debate on immigration reform now raging in Congress, King has become a frequent fixture discussing security-related issues on Fox News and numerous other media forums.

"I think it would be a great thing if Peter King ran for president," Michael Mukasey, former federal judge and U.S. attorney general under George W. Bush, told Newsmax.

"At a time when terrorism poses a greater danger than ever to our country, Peter has a terrific background in this area and a superb background in legislative affairs," Mukasey said. "He’s a great leader, and I would applaud his running."

Former California Republican Rep. Barry Goldwater Jr., son of the GOP's iconic conservative senator, agreed.

Goldwater, who has campaigned for King since his first House race back in 1992, told Newsmax that "we've fallen down in foreign policy and, under Bush and Obama, we've become too quick to march off to war without considering foreign cultures and religions first. Peter well understands this. He stands out in a crowd and says what's on his mind."

Other supporters note that King, while occasionally casting a maverick vote that annoys the Republican Party establishment (his lifetime American Conservative Union rating in Congress is 74 percent), nevertheless votes conservative more often than not.

He also wins big re-election victories in suburban Long Island, with his district encompassing parts of Nassau and Suffolk counties. Those counties have been trending Democratic in recent years. In 2010, King won re-election with 72 percent of the vote. And last year, while Obama won New York in a landslide, Republican King breezed to a congressional victory with 59 percent.

King fans believe his popularity is transferable and argue that he will also have appeal in heartland states like Iowa and South Carolina, key Republican primary states. A devout Roman Catholic, he has a solid record on the pro-life issue and most cultural matters.

Catholics increasingly have become a swing voter group and are seen as critical to Republican success nationally. Still, the GOP has only put two Catholics on their national ticket — vice presidential nominees and Reps. William Miller of New York in 1964 and Paul Ryan of Wisconsin in 2012.

"Peter can speak to and assemble the old Ronald Reagan Democrats — and he's a world-renowned expert on global terrorism and national defense," former Rep. Vito Fosella, a New York Republican and close friend of King's, told Newsmax. "He has broad appeal and that's why he keeps winning in the Northeast when other Republicans come and go."

A King candidacy, however, will face an uphill battle. There is precedent: The last candidate to go successfully from the House of Representatives to the White House was James A. Garfield in 1880. Since then, the political graveyards have grown full of House hopefuls whose presidential ambitions were dashed, including recent candidates Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul.

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"The road to the White House does not seem to lead directly from the House," historian David Pietrusza, author of three best-selling books on presidential campaigns, told Newsmax, "Ask [Reps.] Dennis Kucinich, Mo Udall, Phil Crane, John Anderson, Thaddeus McCotter, or Michele Bachmann. King has limited name ID beyond Long Island and inveterate Fox watchers. He would serve the party better by running for statewide office in 2014."

But King supporters note that a relatively unknown state legislator from Illinois made a pit stop in the U.S. Senate only to find himself in the Oval Office. Peter's visibility, experience, and leadership skills far outweigh what young Sen. Barack Obama offered the public when he announced his presidential bid in 2007.

King is well-liked by conservative grass-roots leaders, and while he sports a conservative voting record, similar to Sen. John McCain, he takes stands on some issues that may be irksome to the right. For example, he still supports congressional earmarks and voted for the 2008 Wall Street bailout.

Still, as the Boston Marathon bombings and the growing unrest in the Mideast suggest, the country may be looking for a "security" candidate in 2016, as the GOP seeks to field a candidate who can win over independent and Democratic voters to create a new national majority. King, his supporters tell Newsmax, is the man who can do this.

Even some political pundits suggest the public could be ready for something different.

Mark Kennedy, director of the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University and himself a former Republican U.S. Representative from Minnesota, said of a King presidential bid, "Any House member attempting a presidential run faces several obstacles: low name ID nationwide, a large database of recorded votes from which opponents can cherry-pick for negative advertising, and the overall unpopularity of the current Congress."

"But Congressman Peter King does have several assets that could help him in a possible run: impeccable cultural conservative credentials, expert knowledge of terrorism and homeland security, and an independent streak that could appeal to general election voters," Kennedy said.

King's office declined to comment on the story. But King allies say they are already surveying the political and donor landscape and hoping he jumps in. After more than two decades in Congress, King may be ready for his next big challenge.



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