After surveying the field of contenders expected to enter the Republican presidential primary in 2016, Rep. Pete King, an 11-term Republican from Long Island, N.Y., said he is considering running for the country’s highest elected office.
“I’m going to certainly give it thought. I’m going to see where it goes,” King said during an interview with ABC News today. “My concern right now is I don’t see anyone at the national level speaking enough on, to me, what’s important – national security, homeland security, counterterrorism.”
As King weighs an improbable campaign, he called New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush “solid candidates,” but said he has been disappointed by the lack of focus on foreign policy by other candidates that are presumed to enter the Republican primary.
“I would hope that our party is not defined by Rand Paul and Ted Cruz,” King said, taking aim at conservative Republican senators from Kentucky and Texas, respectively. “I’m not crazy about Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. But on the other hand, you know, guys like Chris Christie and Jeb Bush, I have a lot of regard for.
“The big debate that Republicans seem to have in the Senate on foreign policy is whether or not, you know, the CIA was going to use a drone to kill an American in Starbucks,” he said. “To me, we should be going beyond that and we should go back to being a party – whether it’s Eisenhower, Reagan, Bush – of having a strong national defense, and that should be, to me, an essential part of the presidential debate. And so far, that’s missing.”
King expressed “some mixed feelings” about Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is also thought to be a front runner for the Republican nomination should he enter the race.
“The fact, coming from Florida, he voted against the Sandy aid to New York, I know that is a parochial issue, but that was also an issue of life and death for my district,” King said. “For a guy whose state got billions of dollars in the past for hurricane and storm relief to [be] posturing against New York, I thought it was cheap politics.”
King, who flirted with the idea of running for president briefly in 2011 and is viewed as a long shot to win even if he formally decides to run in 2016, acknowledged that the economy will be a critical issue in 2016. But he said he would enter the field to focus on the country’s national defense.
“Obviously, the economy is important, but the first requirement in the Constitution is to defend the country against foreign attack and provide for national defense,” he said. “The only way that’s been brought up [so far by other contenders] is to how quickly we can withdraw troops and whether or not drones can be used to kill Americans. That, to me, is not a debate that a party of national defense should be leading with.”
King, a native of Queens, N.Y., was first mentioned as a possible candidate in an article by Newsmax today. The former chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security noted that encouragement from friends and supporters picked up after the Boston Marathon bombing in April.
“I’m going to see where it goes,” he said. “It does give me, at the very least, a forum to get my views out there on the direction I think the Republican Party should be following on foreign policy and not just back ourselves into an isolationist corner, and we’ll see where it goes from there.”
Although he has not made plans to visit Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina, at least one early primary state encouraged him to visit after word began to spread about his curiosity.
“@RepPeteKing should come to NH if he is thinking about running 4 President,” @NHGOP, the New Hampshire Republican State Committee, tweeted. “The Granite State welcomes all potential candidates #nhpolitics.”
Among his top presidential attributes, King cited his “depth of knowledge, commitment, independence, unwillingness to back down,” and joked that he enjoys “jousting with reporters.”
So does he like his chances?
“Anything can happen,” he said. “It’s a great country.”