(AP) NY Rep. King tests presidential waters in NH
By STEVE PEOPLES
New York Republican Congressman Peter King is warning his party not to abandon its longstanding emphasis on national defense as he launches a two-day tour of New Hampshire.
The 11-term congressman greeted unsuspecting diners Monday morning at restaurant deep in the state’s Lakes Region, part of a New Hampshire visit that served as a coming-out party of sorts for King’s presidential ambitions. He says he is at least a year away from a final decision, but King has officially joined the ballooning group of Republican leaders teasing a presidential bid.
Though his congressional seniority offers him considerable influence in Washington, King is largely unknown across New Hampshire, the small state expected to host the nation’s first presidential primary contests more than two years from now.
A Quinnipiac University poll released Monday suggests that he has an uphill climb. More than 70 percent of respondents said they didn’t know who he was.
King laughed off the results.
King, 69, talks openly about a possible presidential bid when asked, but has yet to conduct his own polling, expand his staff or court new donors, steps necessary for serious contenders. Yet he arrived in New Hampshire Sunday evening, his first visit here since campaigning for Rudolph Giuliani’s presidential bid in 2008. King plans to spend much of Monday in the state before returning to New York.
His remarks came minutes after the State Department announced plans to keep facilities in 19 cities closed through the end of the week because of terrorist “chatter.”
King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, is perhaps best known in national politics for a hawkish approach on national security. He says his presidential bid would be designed, in part, to balance the increasingly vocal libertarian wing of the GOP–led by possible presidential contenders like Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas–who support significant reductions in U.S. foreign aid and military involvement abroad.
King downplayed specific criticism while speaking in New Hampshire Sunday night, but cited Paul by name in an interview before the trip.
Some diners at Lino’s didn’t recognize King and had little idea who he was even after he introduced himself. But Lino’s regular John Sullivan said he recognized him immediately.
Sullivan said he was already paying close attention to the 2016 presidential race, noting that the GOP field was quickly filling up.
King isn’t on the radar for many veterans of presidential politics in New Hampshire and Washington either, although political operatives suggest that it’s impossible to predict the political climate in 2016. In an election focused on national security, King would enjoy an inherent advantage.
King says he already has at least two more New Hampshire visits planned.