Tea Party Group Hits ‘Country Club’ Pete King as He Stumps in New Hampshire

Pete King. (Photo: Getty)

Pete King. (Photo: Getty)

Republican Congressman Pete King today took aim at the Tea Party, launching a PAC to promote what he dubs “common sense” candidates–and to lay the groundwork for his potential run for president.

Speaking to Politicker by phone as he drove across New Hampshire, Mr. King said the new effort, unveiled today in the crucial early voting state, was aimed at helping Republican candidates who reject the Tea Party’s isolationist, anti-government message.

The goal “is to establish basically a national forum, a national foothold to try to find Republicans and support Republicans and to encourage Republicans who share basically the same beliefs I do, and that’s anti-isolationism in foreign policy, against government shutdowns and basically a much more common-sense approach,” he said.

Mr. King then took direct aim at several Tea Party-affiliated presidential candidates.

“It’s a rejection, on the Republican level, of the Ted Cruz, Rand Paul Republicans … who I think have caused tremendous damage to the party, as far the government shutdown, very negative attitude. And also lay out an agenda against President Obama and the Democrats,” he said.

Mr. King has increasingly clashed with fellow members of his party, declaring at one point in frustration during the recent government shutdown, “This party is going nuts.” When fellow party members blocked federal aid to help areas damaged by Hurricane Sandy, he urged New York and New Jersey residents to halt contributions to congressional Republicans. He later expressed shock that Mr. Rubio had the “balls” to fund-raise in New York after his Sandy vote.

Mr. King has since been laying the groundwork for a potential uphill run for the White House and on a practical note said the PAC would help cover expenses as he accepts invitations to visit various parts of the country–including New Hampshire, where he’ll be having dinner tonight with the state’s former senate majority leader and power broker Bob Clegg.

“This will cover my expenses going there and give me the opportunity to support candidates in those states and support the candidates and committees which I believe are moving the party away from the Ted Cruz, Rand Paul way,” he said. “Basically it’s to move the party away from what I’ve seen over the past six months.”

But the Tea Party wasn’t taking the attacks lying down. In a press release this evening, the Tea Party Express, the movement’s largest political action committee, slammed Mr. King’s new PAC as an “an ill-advised organization” that’s promoting everything Republicans are doing wrong.

“Republicans have tried Congressman King’s small tent approach to winning elections as recently as the 2012 presidential election. It does not work,” the group’s Chief Strategist Sal Russo said in a statement. “Unfortunately, Congressman King is out of touch with the majority of Americans who want to reduce the size, cost and intrusiveness of the federal government.”

Mr. Russo went on to point to the 2010 election as proof that Tea Party politics are key to future Republican victories.

“That effort succeeded because the Tea Party inspired people to get involved in the political process and take the Republican Party out of the hands of the country club establishment-types like Congressman King, who managed to lose both Houses of Congress and the White House over the past two election cycles,” he said.

“King has consistently, yet foolishly, pointed the finger at conservatives for the gridlock in D.C. In reality, it has been the ‘politics as usual’ that has kept America swallowed in deficits and debt that the American people want addressed. The Sandy relief legislative is a perfect example of the wrong-headed approach by Congressman King. Instead of attacking Democrats and some Republicans for stuffing the bill with pork spending that was not even going to the victims, he attacked conservative Republicans for objecting to wasteful and deceptive spending. It’s that kind of backdoor politics that Americans hate,” Mr. Russo added.

But Mr. King laughed off the shot, insisting there was nothing country club about his brand.

“I’m a blue-collar conservative. I’ve never belonged to a country club in my life. And that’s just the type of senseless name-calling that those people resort to,” he said.

“To say I’m a country club guy shows how out of touch they are. They should get better talking points the next time,” he quipped.

Read the full release from the Tea Party Express below:

Congressman Peter King’s Small Tent Strategy is Wrong 

Sacramento, CA – Tea Party Express, the nation’s largest Tea Party political action committee, chastised Congressman Peter King for forming American Leadership PAC, an ill-advised organization that aims to reduce the appeal of the Republican Party by promoting big-government proponents.

Tea Party Express’ Chief Strategist Sal Russo said, “Republicans have tried Congressman King’s small tent approach to winning elections as recently as the 2012 presidential election. It does not work. That’s why Tea Party Express focuses on the economic issues that promote economic growth and opportunity, which also unite 70% of the electorate. Unfortunately, Congressman King is out of touch with the majority of Americans who want to reduce the size, cost and intrusiveness of the federal government.

“The political pundits expected 2010 to be another election year where more Democrats would be elected to public office.  Instead, the Tea Party movement emerged, delivering huge political gains across the country and giving control of the House back to Republicans. That effort succeeded because the Tea Party inspired people to get involved in the political process and take the Republican Party out of the hands of the country club establishment-types like Congressman King, who managed to lose both Houses of Congress and the White House over the past two election cycles. 

“King has consistently, yet foolishly, pointed the finger at conservatives for the gridlock in D.C.  In reality, it has been the ‘politics as usual’ that has kept America swallowed in deficits and debt that the American people want addressed. The Sandy relief legislative is a perfect example of the wrong-headed approach by Congressman King. Instead of attacking Democrats and some Republicans for stuffing the bill with pork spending that was not even going to the victims, he attacked conservative Republicans for objecting to wasteful and deceptive spending. It’s that kind of backdoor politics that Americans hate.

“Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, who Congressman King likes to criticize, are exactly the kind of conservative leaders we need in the party. Senator Paul has embraced Reagan’s big tent approach and is sharing his message of fiscal conservatism and economic freedom with communities that the Peter Kings of the world ignore. King should follow Senator Paul’s lead and work on growing the party – not shrinking it,” Russo concluded.