The Sarasota GOP announced this week that Allen West would be their keynote speaker for their Lincoln Day dinner in February, prompting speculation the former congressman could be planning a political comeback at the state level.
Since losing to Patrick Murphy last year, West has remained politically active, though his focus has often been more at the national level than at the state level. West even made a trip this year to New Hampshire, launching buzz that he could take a shot at the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
But a U.S. Senate bid seems a bit more realistic for West. The former congressman could attempt to return to Capitol Hill in 2016 if Marco Rubio runs for president. But West could find running for the Senate to be a difficult assignment.
Despite some conservatives and tea parties calling for West to challenge Rubio after the senators support of immigration reform, that doesnt seem an option. West has already shot down rumors that he would primary Rubio in 2016 and continues to show no interest in taking the senator in the Republican primaries. But, when asked what he would do if Rubio ran for the Republican presidential nomination and not for the Senate, West said he would be very interested in campaigning for an open Senate seat.
Despite his loss to Murphy, West does bring some strengths to the table as a possible Senate hopeful. Popular with the tea party movement, West continues to be a strong fundraiser and he has remained something of a political player, rallying conservatives in Florida and at the national level. West remains popular with large swaths of the Republican base and should be a major player if he enters the Senate primary. West might be out of office but hes not out of politics and he should be able to keep the attention of likely primary voters.
But West certainly has his weaknesses. While it was close, West lost out to Murphy and Republicans have grumbled that he did not focus enough on grassroots campaigning. Wests conservatism and shoot-from-the-hip style endears him to the tea party but wont play as well in a general election, especially with a presidential election taking place in 2016 and Florida, as usual, expected to be a battleground state.
West wont be the only Republican looking to move up the ladder, especially with an open Senate seat in play. George LeMieux could make another Senate bid. While most observers expect them to run for governor, the likes of Jeff Atwater, Adam Putnam and Will Weatherford could focus on Washington instead of Tallahassee. Add into the mix young congressmen like Tom Rooney and Ron DeSantis and West could be facing a crowded primary.
The Republican leadership wont want West to run, especially in a presidential year. Its hard to imagine Republicans beating the Democratic presidential candidate in 2016 -- presumably Hillary Clinton -- with Florida. They will pull out all the stops to ensure the often controversial and blunt West will not be on the ballot in November 2016.
Wherever he goes, West is not fading off into obscurity like so many one-term congressmen. West will continue to remain a factor for Republicans in Florida and could pop up as a Senate candidate in 2016 or 2018. Wests speech to the Sarasota County GOP and his other activities in the Sunshine State bear watching.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis piece exclusively for Sunshine State News.