Most potential 2016 candidates have spent the year waving aside their undeniable interest in the presidency.
On Saturday, New York Rep. Peter King did the exact opposite.
“Right now I’m running for president,” he told a New Hampshire radio station during a visit to Wolfeboro, N.H.
It’s the most direct statement any 2016er has made yet — and it’s surely meant to convince the press corps of his seriousness.
But, more importantly, it’s a shot across the bow to the anti-interventionist wing of the party — particularly Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz — which has been gaining momentum in recent months following the revelations surrounding government snooping and the debate over whether to intervene in Syria.
King has been vocal about his deep disagreements with Paul and Cruz, professing that Hillary Clinton would destroy them in a general election and warning that the foreign policy view they’re promoting is downright dangerous for the GOP and the nation.
“We are the party of Eisenhower and Reagan, which believes in a strong national defense. I’m willing to be out there and be a spokesman,” he told MSNBC’s Morning Joe in July.
In essence, that’s why King is running — to the become the mouthpiece that counters the Paul/Cruz axis of the party at every opportunity.
Deep down, King probably doesn’t think he’ll be the GOP nominee — he may not even end up pursuing the race. But it’s clear he believes there’s a vacuum that needs to be filled on the more traditionalist Republican foreign policy side.
And as Paul and Cruz traverse the early primary states, there isn’t really anyone counteracting their positions. (Sure, there’s the dynamic duo of Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham — but neither is running for president this time.)
Simply saying the words, “I’m running” puts King on a pedestal and demands some amount of media attention.
Putting a finer point on it, one could surmise that King is playing the part of attack dog for his New Jersey neighbor Chris Christie.
King and Christie are in the same mold — blunt, sharp-elbowed northeastern Republicans who believe the party needs to grown beyond its southern, white, evangelical base.
And with Christie tied up with a reelection effort for a few more months, the New Jersey governor has only dipped his toes into national issues sparingly.
One of them, of course, was foreign policy, in July — when he sparked a back-and-forth with Paul about the growing libertarian strand in the GOP.
As one GOP operative familiar with King’s team said, the goal of King’s candidacy is to be the attack dog on Paul and Cruz so “other establishment voices don’t have to.”
“Let Pete King take the heat because he isn’t a serious candidate and let Christie not weigh in. And Pete King is a good attack dog,” said the operative.
King can take the backlash from the libertarian wing and allow Christie and the others to ride above the fray for as long as possible.
Of course, Christie will only be able to do that for so long after his reelection — and who is to say, really, that he even wants to stay out of the fray. Self-restraint isn’t one of Christie’s strong suits.
Nonetheless, King as the attack dog with nothing to lose is reason enough to take his candidacy seriously.
But it’s also important to remember his qualifier: “Right now.”
As in running for president “right now.”
He may be one of the few candidates in the White House contest in 2013 who gets out before 2016.
Correction: The original version of this post mistakenly referred to the congressman as Steve King.