Two Visions of 2016: Peter King Vs. Ted Cruz

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The same day that Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul and Ted Cruz were giving speeches to evangelical ministers in Iowa, Rep. Peter King was on MSNBC saying he wanted to run for president to reach a very different set of voters. Cruz told the Iowa Renewal Project in Des Moines on Friday that Republicans should threaten to shut down the government unless President Obama defunds Obamacare, the Des Moines Register's Jennifer Jacobs reports. "Belief, saying I believe in something, is not sitting there quietly doing the golf clap," Cruz said. "We can de-fund Obamacare if conservative leaders who tell their constituents they’re conservative stand up and act like they’re conservative." He got a rapturous response. Pastors laid hands on him. "I don't want to overstate it, but enthusiasm for Cruz here is a little startling," The National Review's Robert Costa tweeted. Evangelical radio host Steve Deace tweeted, "I am cynical and hard to please, but I have never seen anything like Ted Cruz. Could unite conservatives like no one has since Reagan."

The appearance offered a preview of what could be a fascinating 2016 Republican primary. (Rand Paul was scheduled to speak after Cruz.) Cruz talked about stopping same-sex marriage and about his record on religious issues when he was Texas solicitor general. According to the Des Moines Register, pastor Jim Hartman "said he feels inspired by the calls for action at the forum, but burdened by the weight of how difficult it is to persuade some Iowans, especially young people, to side with him in opposition to homosexuality and abortion."

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Hours earlier, Peter King said he was considering running for president on an entirely different set of issues. His potential 2016 candidacy is unexpected. (When asked about his candidacy, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi responded, "Was he serious?") In an interview on Morning Joe, King said he's spoken to people who were worried about "a lack of a real defense policy or defense debate among Republican candidates for president, focusing primarily on Rand Paul and Ted Cruz." King clearly wants to reach an audience that differs from the one Cruz spoke to in Iowa. The New York congressman said:

"I believe the Republicans have managed to cut themselves off from what used to be the old Reagan coalition. They're the building trade unions, the operating engineers, the construction workers, the cops, the firefighters. We needlessly antagonize them. So on just two issues, national defense and reaching out to what I believe are really hardcore workers who should be part of the Republican majority."

Cruz was sworn into his first term in the Senate six months ago; King is in his 11th term in the House. King suggested he wanted to bring back the GOP of decades ago, naming Reagan and Eisenhower. But the Republican National Committee thinks being open to gay marriage and immigration reform is necessary for the future of the party. Cruz opposes both those things, meaning that, surprisingly, the cranky old congressman is closer to the RNC's vision of the future.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.