Once referring to the accession of a promising boxer, the great George Foreman stated: "I think it's so good for boxing when a new guy or new blood as we call it, makes a big statement."
Congressman Peter King last week took off the gloves and unleashed a big statement on Florida Senator Marco Rubio, wailing on him for coming to Wall Street to fundraise for his expected presidential bid.
King bluntly told Rubio he had big cohones coming to N.Y. and asking for campaign donations after voting against aid for New York and New Jersey victims of Hurricane Sandy. Rubio, along with other southern Republicans, had held up and voted against critically needed Hurricane Sandy relief aid last fall, objecting to alleged "pork" being tied in with the relief monies.
"Being from New York we're not supposed to be suckers," said Rep. King. "It's bad enough that these guys voted against it, that's inexcusable enough. But to have the balls to come in and say, 'We screwed you now make us president?'"
That's a big statement, indeed, one that could be cited as the beginning of that long expected ideological second civil war between north and south in the GOP.
While King, who is also an amateur boxer at 68 years old, may not be considered a political "new blood" by any means, he has always been a tenacious fighter for his constituents -- and that incensed moxy shown toward Rubio is a really good sign that changes are coming to the GOP.
The continued schism between King and Rubio, and within the GOP in Congress, over the Hurricane Sandy aid in fact neatly frames the upcoming debate between steadfast commitment to conservative (and anti-Obama) ideology that has placed Washington and many state capitols in moribund political dysfunction verses a rising embrace of true pragmatic governance that encompasses bipartisan compromise on tough issues and a emergent tolerance on social issues.
Since the defeat of Mitt Romney, there's been anticipation of a major chasm within GOP party ranks between Tea Party conservatives in Congress and the rest that are considered the mainstream of the party.
But judging from King's statement, and some recent actions and events in Republican circles as well, it looks to be that the fight taking shape will be on more on geographic lines -- particularly as Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey also continues to attack the southern-centric GOP leaders in Congress.
His latest remark was about how they handled the sequestration: "I don't have the first damn idea of what they're doing down there... I don't understand why they haven't fixed it already. Seems to me it should be pretty easy to fix. Real leadership would get this fixed."
Despite his popularity continuing to increase across the country, Christie was dissed by the Conservative Political Action Committee by being left of their speaker list that features the likes of Rubio and other southern GOP conservatives.
And it's significant that it really doesn't matter: Christie is building his own presidential brand as he rebuilds New Jersey from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, being not afraid to attack the president on certain issues, but then sensibly praise President' Obama's attention to his constituents after Sandy or to buy into Obamacare Medicaid provisions. He, King and other N.Y. Republicans like Rep. Chris Gibson too, are leading a budding revival of a Northern Republican tradition of pragmatism and social tolerance that is coalescing into a new common sense, neo-moderate wing of the GOP.
In order to take the White House in 2016, the GOP can't rely on a strategy that encompasses solely winning red states and battleground states like Rubio's Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. They must win traditionally blue states like New York, California, and New Jersey to amass the electoral votes necessary to win the presidency. Only a guy like Christie or Wisconsin's Paul Ryan, not Miami's Rubio or Louisiana's Jindal, can achieve this.
King's punching Rubio in his cohones, Christie's continued ascent in the polls, and even the 131 prominent Republicans signing an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to rule that gay couples have a constitutional right to marry, are all signs of there's some new blood circulating in the GOP's moribund body.
Steven Kurlander is an attorney and communications strategist in Monticello, N.Y and blogs at his Kurly's Kommentary, the Huffington Post, and the Florida Squeeze. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Steven Kurlander on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@Kurlykomments