August 5, 2013

Presidential hopeful says he'd focus on national defense

Longtime Congressman Peter King, R-N.Y., says Republicans 'have to go back to being the party of national defense.'

The Associated Press

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U.S. Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y. speaks at an outdoor barbecue at the home of Don Rowan, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2013 in Wakefield, N.H. King is considering running for president in 2016.(AP Photo/Jim Cole)

His remarks came soon after the State Department announced plans to keep facilities in 19 cities closed through the end of the week because of terrorist "chatter."

King's path to relevance in the 2016 presidential contest is unclear.

For now, he says he's serving as his own manager of a campaign he hasn't yet formally launched. He has yet to conduct his own polling, expand his staff or court new donors, steps serious contenders typically take even at this early stage. And he hasn't scheduled trips to other early voting states aside from New Hampshire.

While congressional seniority may offer him considerable influence in Washington, King is largely unknown across New Hampshire. A Quinnipiac University poll released Monday shows that most of the electorate didn't know enough about him to have an opinion.

King laughed off the results.

"I don't want to peak too early," he said with a smile outside Lino's restaurant in Wakefield, where shared breakfast on Monday with wife, daughter and two grandchildren.

Some diners had little idea who he was even after he introduced himself. But Lino's regular John Sullivan said he recognized him immediately.

"He seems like a straight shooter," Sullivan said.

It's far too early to know what the political landscape will be in 2016. But in an election focused on national security, political operatives say King would enjoy an inherent advantage.

"It's the summer before the summer before the summer before the New Hampshire primary, and so it shouldn't be a surprise that people have yet to put odds on a Peter King run for president. There's plenty of time to see what he brings to the table," said New Hampshire-based Republican strategist Jamie Burnett.

New Hampshire voters will get another look soon. King says he's already scheduled to return twice in September.


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