Rep. Peter King is ending his two-year flirtation with a run for president, saying yesterday of the long-shot bid, "There comes a time when you have to face reality."

King (R-Seaford) would have needed to formally declare his 2016 candidacy soon to qualify for the first Republican primary debates to be hosted by cable news networks later this year. Only candidates who have filed official paperwork and rank among the top 10 in the polls will be invited.

"The reality is it would take an extraordinary amount of money and lightning to strike," King said in an interview. "The original plan was to get into the debates and take it from there, but now there are so many candidates, and you'd need so much money just to get up front and into the debates."

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Since July 2013, when King first said he might run, he's spoken often on the topic, but has largely limited his primary state trips to New Hampshire.

King, 71, is serving his 12th term in Congress. He has become one of his party's leading national security hawks, and originally declared his interest in a presidential bid to counter what he called the isolationist views of GOP hopefuls Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas.

"I didn't want those to be the only voices of the Republican Party," said King, who also has attacked far-right elements of his party for trying to block superstorm Sandy aid.

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He said he's pleased other Republicans he's more aligned with -- such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, and former New York Gov. George Pataki -- have launched runs.

"I was able to raise the issues I wanted to raise," King said.