King for Prez: "It's to Get Attention"

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Peter King wants people to know people want him to run.

    Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) has, for the most part, insisted he’s not interested in running for president. But he’s also making sure his supporters know that other people want him to.

    The longtime Long Island congressman, now the chief of the House Homeland Security Committee, has sent out three emails to supporters highlighting news coverage about a nascent — at best — King 2012 campaign.

    King has made noise about running for higher office before, but those rumblings have always involved statewide New York postitions. This time, he’s talking about a higher-stakes stage, one that he is both eyeing and disavowing at the same time.

    “Last night, former Mayor Ed Koch urged me to run for President, while agreeing to join my administration,” read the latest missive from “Pete King for Congress,” referring to the octogenarian, iconic former leader of New York City. “I would love to hear your thoughts on my potential White House bid,” he added.

    King’s public ponderings have raised the question among political-watchers from New York to Washington: What’s King actually up to?

    The answer, insists the congressman, is “nothing,” other than the obvious.

    “I’ve said, I’m going to let this play out,” King told POLITICO of why he’s simultaneously flirting with, and rejecting, a 2012 bid. But, he said, “the more attention I can focus on myself, the more attention” gets trained on his Nassau County district, and the issues he cares about.

    As for his campaign emails — the first noted that Nassau County GOP chief Joe Mondello initially suggested the idea, and the second talked up media coverage of the suggestion — King said he also sent out alerts to his supporters when he threw out the first pitch at a game for the Mets farm team, the Brooklyn Cyclones.

    “I really wasn’t trying out for a job with the Mets or the Cyclones” by doing that, he said. “Mainly, it’s to get attention, and it works.”

    Still, several political insiders speculated that King is also hoping to boost his campaign coffers, bolster his media profile or even giving himself extra layer of insulation for dealing with redistricting.

    “It helps him to have his name out there,” said one Democratic insider, who also noted that New York is set to lose two congressional seats in the latest round of reapportionment, and that one is expected to be downstate.

    That King might be acting with redistricting in mind, however, was contested by a string of other New York politics watchers, some of whom argued King’s position on the Homeland Security Committee also gives him armor against redistricting).

    Another New York political insider, who asked not to be identified, noted that King has made similar moves in the past, only to bow out and stick with his congressional seat.

     

    “Remember, he was running for governor, then he was running for Senate,” said the insider, who’s involved in Republican politics and noted this is not King’s first go-around mulling another office. “This gives him attention.”

    And yet, if it’s the public’s eyes and ears King wants, the congressman mostly has sounded reluctant when he discusses a run.

    “If I do go to New Hampshire, it would probably be to campaign for Rudy Giuliani,” King said, hours before he attended a dinner with reporters. King said the former New York City mayor — his close ally — is nearing a decision on a second presidential run. On Thursday, King indicated he might run if Giuliani passes.

    “I think he’s very flattered by all of the attention,” said another former Nassau politician, former Sen. Al D’Amato. “That’s gotta make somebody feel good. I think his real focus is getting re-elected and continuing to do a good job on Homeland Security. I don’t think he would jeopardize his position in Congress.”

    King has represented one of New York’s suburban swing districts since 1993, and is now a well-known national presence thanks to a range of issues. He voiced support for the Irish Republican Army in the 1990s, voted against impeaching Bill Clinton after the Monica Lewinsky scandal and more recently held congressional hearings on radical Islam.

    He also made a heavy push to pass a bill providing financial support for first responders and recovery workers sickened in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.

    Yet the idea of King-for-president cropped up out of nowhere, tossed out by Mondello at a Nassau County Republican dinner.

    In a cycle where there are more candidates opting out than jumping into the race, the notion gained steam. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer talked about the idea on air, and soon after, the Associated Press interviewed King about his intentions.

    “This was an impulsive act that came out of a political dinner — it was pushed by other people first,” said Lawrence Levy, executive dean of the National Center of Suburban Studies at Hofstra University.

    “[But] the truth is that considering the relative chaos also known as lack of consensus [about a Republican nominee], why shouldn’t Pete King be taken as seriously as he wants to be taken?” Levy said.

    Robert Zimmerman, a Democratic National Committee member who is a Long Island strategist and has worked with King, insisted the idea, thanks in part to Mondello’s former role as state party chairman, has some people paying attention.

    “Everyone’s watching this closely in the political community,” Zimmerman said.