Rep. Peter King's top opponent: Name recognition

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., and his wife Rosemary Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., and his wife Rosemary talks New Hampshire politics with former New Hampshire State Sen. Jeb Bradley in Wolfeboro, N.H. King is the latest politician to dangle to prospect of of a presidential campaign to push a pet issue -- in his case, national defense. (Aug. 5, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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WOLFEBORO, N.H. -- It was hit or miss for Rep. Peter King as he worked a small diner near here Monday, shaking hands and introducing himself on the second of a two-day tour to test the presidential waters in this early primary state.

Some, such as Richard and Catherina Wickboldt, former Long Islanders, said they had no idea who he is.

Others, like Drew Wile, who's vacationing here with his wife and three children, said he knew King (R-Seaford) from watching Fox News.

Name recognition remains a major issue for King, according to a Quinnipiac Poll released Monday to assess voter attitudes toward possible presidential candidates -- the first presidential poll to include King.

The poll found that 71 percent said they don't know King well enough to rate him.

That lack of name recognition among the 22 politicians tested was topped only by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) at 75 percent and Democratic Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley at 78 percent.

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Among those who did know him, King ranked 12th overall and 13th among Republicans.

"I don't want to peak too soon," King joked about the poll.

That lack of visibility, and the fact that a congressman hasn't been elected president since 1880, makes King a very long shot, said political scientist Dante Scala of the University of New Hampshire.

King said he thinks he has a chance as the national security candidate in what he expects to be a crowded primary field.

He said to boost his visibility he's counting on his appearances on national television, such as Bill O'Reilly's Fox News show, and trips to New Hampshire and other states to meet with voters and party activists.

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And he said he's got plenty of time to do it: at least another two years, or after the 2014 mid-term elections, before he has to make a decision on whether to actually run for president.

Until he does make up his mind, King said he will run his own "campaign," go where he's invited and keep a high profile.

Before returning to New York, King met at a Wolfeboro cafe with a potential U.S. Senate candidate, New Hampshire Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, and New Hampshire GOP executive director Matt Slater.

Bradley, a former congressman, greeted King by shaking his head and saying, "It's 2013."

Bradley and Slater talked to King about GOP factions in their state: the "liberty Republicans" or libertarians, and the others, who some young Republicans dub the "establishment."

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Bradley said many candidates will visit his state in the next few years, and he advised them to meet voters at least two or three times.

King was still working on that skill. He appeared awkward at times as he approached strangers on the street here.

He was more at ease at a diner in nearby Wakefield.

He shook hands and joked about the Yankees with Wile, a high school physical education teacher from Ipswich, Mass.

"I recognize him from the O'Reilly show. He seems to be on there once a week," Wile said.

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In King's home district, about 130 immigrant advocates gathered outside his Massapequa Park office, not to protest the congressman's hardline stances on immigration enforcement but to thank him for backing reform that would include a path to citizenship.

They called on King to be "the voice of reason" in a contentious debate, as they said he has been since landing in a redrawn district with a larger immigrant population.

"What we're doing here in Massapequa Park is we're showing the way to pass immigration reform," said Patrick Young, an advocate with the Central American Refugee Center. "We thank Peter King for recognizing that the great tradition of the Republican Party going back to Abraham Lincoln is fairness for everyone."

King issued a statement from New Hampshire saying he "will continue to work with all interested parties, including members of the immigrant community, to find a path to comprehensive immigration reform."

With VĂ­ctor Manuel Ramos

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