It might sound like a political oxymoron but Congressman Peter King laughed at that definition Thursday before telling the Irish Echo that he was “looking at it,” – it being a White House run in 2016.
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King was reacting to an online report in the magazine Newsmax in which named and unnamed conservative and Republican Party members and supporters pointed to King as a potential Republican presidential candidate three years from now.
Such is the state of flux in the Republican Party at this juncture that a 2016 presidential bid by New York Congressman King would be anything but an unthinkable development.
And King himself was embracing the Newsmax report saying that he had been contacted a couple of weeks ago by the publication, was flattered by its running the story, and was especially flattered by the endorsement in it of his possible candidacy by Michael Mukasey, former federal judge and U.S. attorney general under President George W. Bush.
“I think it would be a great thing if Peter King ran for president,” Mukasey told Newsmax.
“When you get a compliment like that from the likes of Michael Mukasey, you have to listen,” King said.
“It’s a great honor. I’m looking at it. I’m not ruling it out,” he said of a White House bid.
“I will be listening to people and it’s certainly an opportunity to speak out on different things,” he added.
A King GOP nomination bid would be boosted by his solid conservative credentials on a range of issues and his high national profile on national security which in part stems from King’s time as chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
King is an 11-term member of the House of Representatives who draws considerable support from registered Democrats and independent voters in his Long Island district.
A Catholic, King is a graduate of Notre Dame University and turned 69 in April. This would put him at the higher end of the political age spectrum but he looks younger than his age and presents a robust image when in front of a camera or microphone.
He is long familiar in Ireland for his track record as a supporter of Sinn Féin going back to the 1980s.
When still a locally elected official for Long Island’s Nassau County, King was a frequent visitor to Belfast, at one pointing bringing with him a sitting U.S. Senator, Alfonse D’Amato.
And while his connections to Sinn Féin have long been a prominent part of King’s Irish resumé, he was also one of the first Irish American politicians to meet with loyalist leaders in the early 1980s.
In the Newsmax report, Mark Kennedy, director of the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University, and himself a former Republican U.S. Congressman 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.”
However Kennedy added: “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.
King enjoys a relatively high media profile for an occupant of the 435-member house, this in large part because of his prominence on national security matters.
He is also a Republican in a Democratic-dominated state based just outside New York City. As such, he enjoys the advantage of being the closest and highest ranking Republican when the press in America’s media capital needs to talk to a member of that party.
Though 2016 seems like a long time away, it is not a long stretch in political terms.
If King takes the idea of his candidacy to its logical next step he will very soon have to start putting a national organization in place. That he is already in election mode anyway is a given. House members face the voters every two years, and King must do so again in November, 2014.
Being mentioned in terms of the presidency will spur King’s House re-election bid, and his campaign for a 12th congressional term will, in turn, add energy to any presidential bid.
King was linked in recent years to a possible Senate run in New York. In key respects, a presidential candidacy might be a better option not least because it would allow King to break out of the political corral surrounding what is a solidly blue state and appeal to Republican voters throughout the country.
By Ray O’Hanlon