UPDATED at 1:30 p.m. - Long Island Republican Rep. Peter King said he “certainly would consider” a presidential run in 2016.
“A number of people in the last seven months, particularly in New York, are coming to me concerned about what they see as a lack of defense policy,” King said on Friday’s Morning Joe.
An aggressive military and national security policy was necessary so as not to “leave ourselves open for another 9/11,” King said. “We don’t have the luxury of retreating from the world.”
Having surveyed the lineup of potential 2016 candidates, King said, “There is no conspiracy here, there is just a number of people very concerned there’s no one out there on the national level talking about national security.”
What’s driving this unexpected long-shot candidacy? GOP extremists, like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
“It bothers me when the leading Republicans out there, someone like Rand Paul, seem to be more concerned about an American being killed in Starbucks by a CIA drone than he is about Islamic terrorism,” King said, slamming Paul’s critique of the CIA’s drone program over whether Americans could be killed by the government under the guise of a national security threat. “We can’t have an isolationist trend that I see being pursued by Rand Paul.”
The 11-term Republican, has mulled higher office many times before—he flirted with Senate races in 2000, 2004, and 2010, and a bid for the governor’s seat in 2010, but never officially threw his hat in the race.
A staunch Republican with a record of voting against abortion and for building a border fence, King breaks with rank-and-file party members to support gun control measures, a position that’s earned him a D-rating from the National Rifle Association. King has long been criticized for what critics call Islamaphobia. In 2004, he claimed that “no American Muslim leaders are cooperating in the war on terror” and in 2007 he said there were “too many mosques in this country,” and “too many people sympathetic to radical Islam.”
King’s candidacy would be a long-shot, historically—no one has gone from the House of Representatives to the presidency since James Garfield in 1881.
King said he’d actually seen Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough’s name floated for a 2016 candidacy and added “I’ll be damned if I let Scarborough get there before me.”
Watch the full interview below.