Rep. Peter King called Sen. Ted Cruz a “big mouth” who “basically led the Republican Party over the cliff” and dismissed Sen. Rand Paul as an “isolationist” on Monday as he said their party should ignore those two candidates for its 2016 presidential nomination.
King’s sharpest comments were directed at Cruz.
“To me, he’s a guy with a big mouth and no results,” the New York Republican told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in an interview on “The Situation Room.”
“We have very, very complex issues facing the country today, and he goes out of his way to oversimplify,” King said of Cruz. “Ted Cruz may be an intelligent person, but he doesn’t carry out an intelligent debate. He oversimplifies, he exaggerates … he doesn’t provide leadership and he has no real experience.”
King, who is considering his own campaign for the White House, also took aim at another freshman senator who’s likely to enter the 2016 race – Kentucky’s Rand Paul.
He said Paul is a “nice guy” but far too much of an “isolationist” for his liking.
“His views would basically remove the U.S. from having a real role to play in the world, and his mindset – when you look at things he’s said over the years, in effect blaming the United States for problems around the world, somehow that it’s our fault,” King said. “To me that’s a bad mindset for the commander-in-chief of the United States to be going into office with.”
He said there are several Republican presidential candidates he could support. Among them, King said, are former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
“We have a lot of talent out there,” he said. “I just don’t see Ted Cruz and Rand Paul being part of that talent pool.”
King’s doing little to hide his frustrations with freshman senators who are courting the GOP’s most conservative and libertarian factions.
Earlier Monday, King had issued a written statement criticizing Cruz’s announcement that he was running in 2016 and said the Texas Republican isn’t qualified to serve as president.
“Shutting down the federal government and reading Dr. Seuss on the Senate floor are the marks of a carnival barker not the leader of the free world,” King said in a written statement on Monday.
King’s statement references a Cruz speech on the Senate floor that last more than 20 hours, railing against Obamacare in 2013.
King has been a vocal Cruz critic since the government shutdown that fall, blaming him for the standoff and calling him a “fraud.”
Cruz and other conservatives pressed House Republican leaders to push a strategy to defund Obamacare as part of the annual legislation to fund federal agencies. The fight over the issue triggered a closure of the government for more than two weeks. House GOP leaders ultimately relented and passed a spending bill without the health care provision, and later acknowledged the strategy damaged their standing in public opinion polls.
King, a senior member of both the Homeland Security and Intelligence committees, has traveled to some early primary states and said he’s mulling a potential 2016 bid because he believes the Republican party needs to nominate someone who will press a strong national security agenda.
Another potential GOP presidential contender took aim at Cruz on Monday. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations, scoffed when asked how a President Cruz would handle a nuclear crisis.
“Ted with nukes, Ted with nukes, let’s see …” he joked, drawing laughter from the crowd. “I dunno what Ted would do, but he should come up here and answer these questions, don’t you think?”
Graham is openly contemplating a presidential bid and has also been trying to establish himself as the national security candidate in the soon-to-be crowded field.