Washington - Rep. Peter King said Friday that he's leaning toward endorsing former Jeb Bush as the Republican candidate for president, but he can't stop talking about Donald Trump.
"I would be leaning toward Jeb Bush," said King, the veteran Republican congressman from Seaford, in an interview, but he has not written off the chances of the unorthodox but popular Trump, a New York developer and reality show star.
King he said he will bide his time on announcing his choice for the Republican presidential nominee.
"I want to see how much staying power they have," King said. "It's still early. Trump and Carly Fiorina have real potential."
Right now, King said, Bush seems to have the most staying power, with the money to build a nationwide network and to compete in most states. And that's a big question mark for Trump, King said -- can he put together an organization like that?
Still, King said, "I can't go anywhere without anybody saying something about Donald Trump."
He said, "The most common refrain is that 'He said what we think.'" And when he presses people to explain, King said, they say "he's speaking up for America, he's not afraid of other politicians."
King said, "He's getting away with running with a theme campaign, or a mood campaign."
King has mostly good things to say about Trump, though he has only met Trump a couple of time at social functions, including a party held by Charles Dolan, founder and chairman of Cablevision, the publisher of Newsday.
Trump publicly supported King during his controversial hearings on the Muslim community's responsibility in combating terrorism, King said. And Trump sent a campaign contribution to King with a personal note.
Like many well-seasoned politicians, King conceded he's trying to figure out how Trump has not only kept his momentum but increased his standing in the polls -- despite his irreverence and clashes with other politicians and the news media.
Part of it, King said, is simply how he talks. Trump is "a multibillionaire living on the East Side and Palm Beach but he talks like a blue-collar worker."
And even when he takes swipes at others, like he did with TV's Rosie O'Donnell, King said he seems to do it in good humor. "Some how he said it with a sidewalk swagger," King said.
Meanwhile, King said he understood the reasoning by his friend and mentor Alfonse D'Amato, the former three-term Republican New York senator, in endorsing Ohio Gov. John Kasich for the GOP nominee for president.
D'Amato said Republicans can't win the White House, and Kasich is the only Republican candidate who has been victorious in the swing state -- getting elected twice as governor.
"That's a good case," King said. "I know John. I have nothing against John Kasich."
But he is just not sure Kasich is "equipped to run for a national race" like Bush is.