Rep. King: 'Not saying no' to 2016 run

Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) told The Hill on Thursday he's open to running for president and sees himself as the most "serious" Republican on national defense currently considering a bid for the GOP nomination.


"We'll see where it goes. I'm not ruling anything out. What I'm going to try to do is certainly use this as an opportunity to get my views out on national defense and foreign policy," he said in a phone conversation. "I'm not saying no."

King said he doesn't want the views espoused by some of his Republican colleagues on national defense — particularly those of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who has said he is considering a presidential run — to characterize the GOP.

"When I see people like Rand Paul talking about drones killing people out to get a cup of coffee, I don't want that to be the face of the national Republican Party," he said.

Newsmax reported late Wednesday night that King is mulling the possibility. King said he had received a number of calls from supporters urging him to run following the article's publication. 

He hasn't yet planned any exploratory visits to early primary states, a typical first-step towards a run for presidential hopefuls, but left the door open to such trips.

"I have to sort of improvise for a while and see what I'm going to do," he said.

The former Homeland Security Committee chairman cited his national security experience as one of his greatest assets for a potential run. If former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton runs in 2016, King said: "I know I could answer her on foreign policy."

King said he hadn't initially considered the idea with much seriousness, but had been contacted by supporters suggesting the possibility after the Boston Marathon bombings, a time when he featured prominently in the congressional response to the crisis.

He also serves on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. 

Paul, along with a handful of other GOP elected officials, are considered potential 2016 contenders, but few have the background in national defense that King has from his seven-year tenure as chairman of the Homeland Security committee.

Asked what he felt to be his main asset in a potential race, King said he would be the candidate who's "serious about national defense, foreign policy and homeland security." 

"Virtually nobody who's running for president is talking about those issues from what I would consider a strong national defense position," he added.

King noted that, historically, the Republican Party has been considered the stronger party on national defense. In recent years, however, that label has waned somewhat as President Obama has pursued a more hawkish foreign policy.

Aside from his national security experience, King said he would be competitive against Clinton in a presidential contest because he could draw the support of some union groups, both labor and law enforcement groups.

"As a Republican, though coming from the Northeast, while I'm conservative on most issues, I could reach out to many labor unions," he said.

King indicated he saw himself running as a centrist in a GOP primary. He lamented the loss of "Reagan Democrats," traditionally Democratic and typically white, working-class voters who supported President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

"What we used to call 'Reagan Democrats.' I think too many Republicans are driving them away," he said.

--This piece was updated at 3:50 p.m.