Peter King Jumps into 2016 Presidential Race
Around the State
U.S. Rep. Peter King of New York announced over the weekend he is running for the Republican presidential nomination. King becomes the first major candidate from the Republican and Democratic ranks to say he will run in 2016.
The Long Island congressman turned up on the radio in New Hampshire, home of the first presidential primary, and said he was running for the highest office in the land. King said voters in the Granite State should get used to him in the months to come. This marked his second trip to New Hampshire this year and he plans to return there two more times in the coming months.
King followed up his announcement with a national media appearance on Sunday in which he ripped President Barack Obama’s handling of foreign policy. Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday morning, King doubled down on his support of military action against Syria but fired away at Obama’s management of it.
“I just wish the president had laid this out better,” King said. “I wish he'd quit backing away from his own red line."
King also took a swipe at Obama’s background. "I wish he was more of a commander in chief than a community organizer," King added.
Pressed on the matter, King insisted Obama was “vacillating" on Syria and was not doing as well on the job as several former presidents.
"I can’t imagine Harry Truman or John Kennedy or Ronald Reagan or Dwight Eisenhower ever putting the nation in a position like this on a military policy," King said.
King is expected to make foreign policy one of the cornerstones of his presidential bid. While there are certainly some skeletons in his closet -- ranging from his comments on American Muslims to his support for the Irish Republican Army -- he could find a niche talking about defense and security issues as he starts his dark-horse bid for the Republican nomination.
King might have competition for that role, though, as former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton is also floating his name as a possible presidential candidate and they would cover much the same ground. King has been critical of Republicans who are not as committed to backing an active American foreign policy, including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who are both expected to seek the Republican presidential nomination.
While no sitting member of the U.S. House has been elected president since James Garfield won the 1880 presidential election, King has a higher profile than most congressmen. It comes from his chairing the House Committee on Homeland Security. Representing parts of Long Island and sitting on the House Financial Services Committee, he has been a strong fundraiser at the congressional level, though that might not translate to having enough for a presidential race.
The son of a police officer, King has been in New York politics for the better part of 35 years. After serving in the New York National Guard and graduating from law school, he worked in the Nassau County district attorney’s office before running for town council and eventually moving up to county comptroller. King had a rare political defeat in 1986 when he was the GOP’s candidate for state attorney general. King lost out to Bob Abrams, one of several New York Democrats led by then-Gov. Mario Cuomo who generally did well against Republicans that year.
Despite 1992 not being a good year for Republicans across the nation, King picked up an open congressional seat that had been held by a Democratic congressman in that election cycle. Since then, he has generally kept his seat by overwhelming margins. During his two decades in Congress, King has become a leading Republican on national security but he has often drawn heavy fire from civil libertarians for his stances.
King should be able to avoid a trap that has plagued New York Republicans who have eyed the White House in recent decades. Unlike fellow Empire State Republicans Nelson Rockefeller and Rudy Giuliani, King is not a social liberal. With a solidly pro-life record, King should pass muster with conservatives on most social issues.
King will be 72 in 2016, almost as old as Bob Dole was when he was the Republican nominee back in 1996. To his credit, King shows very little signs of slowing down. King’s brash, often pugnacious style and caustic tongue often get him in trouble, but these could be assets as he looks to win over conservative voters in Iowa and South Carolina.
While he has generally been a strong fundraiser, King will have to play at a much larger level in a presidential bid and his support could be undermined by other New Yorkers in the mix. King might not be the only New York Republican running in 2016. Former Gov. George Pataki looked at making presidential bids in 2000 and 2012, but he stayed out of the fray both times. King could also face indirect competition on the Democratic side. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Sen. Kristen Gillibrand and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are all possible candidates for the Democratic nomination and would be relying heavily on money from the Empire State.
King has shown some hesitation in running for higher office before. While there was speculation that he could seek the open U.S. Senate seat in 2000, he generally remained on the sidelines as Clinton, Giuliani and Rick Lazio took center stage in that contest. But he also flirted with running for the Senate throughout the next decade in the 2004, 2006 and 2010 election cycles. Each time out, he stayed out of the contest.