2012 May Have Marred Allen West's Presidential Aspirations for 2016
Around the State
Despite losing his bid for a second term in 2012, Allen West keeps sending up trial balloons that he could be gunning for higher office in 2016.
West was on Ben Shapiro’s radio show last week and said he was thinking about running for the Republican presidential nomination. Later on in the week, West spoke to the Floyd County GOP in Georgia and did nothing to shoot down speculation that he could be looking at entering what’s shaping up as the most open Republican presidential primaries in decades. The week ended with West campaigning with Tom Cotton in Arkansas in a must-have contest if Republicans want to take control of the Senate next year.
West faced some challenges in 2012. Bob Crowder did nothing to help West after an ugly primary. Patrick Murphy proved a hard-working challenger and some Republicans have complained that West needed to spend more time on the ground campaigning instead of appearing on cable talk shows. West proved a little bit out of the loop, not coming down to address supporters on Election Night even as the race was still undecided. West’s support of Ellen Andel, who promptly went nowhere and got out of the race to take on Murphy this year, only proves the former congressman isn’t exactly on the same page as Republicans in the district.
Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann had their moments in 2012 and perhaps West could do the same in 2016. To be sure, West will face competition from the likes of Ben Carson. But West will be facing a disadvantage that Cain and Bachmann didn’t have to cope with: the RNC is already trying to crack down on the number of debates in the 2016 primaries. That hurts dark-horse candidates like West who rely heavily on the debates to spur their campaigns.
West still has a role, of course. Conservatives still admire West and he continues to be adored by tea partiers. But he will have a next-to-impossible task in winning the Republican presidential nomination and his chances of making a major impact are not as good as they would have been in 2012. Of course, there are other options. West could set his eyes on running for the Senate if Marco Rubio forgoes a second term in 2016.
Still, West may have blown his best chance of moving higher up the political ladder and raising his profile. Some conservatives wanted West to run for the Senate in 2012 and take on Bill Nelson. In retrospect, West could have been a real contender for the Republican nomination. Connie Mack won the primary but he was a disaster against Nelson. Other Republicans in the hunt didn’t prove any better. Mike Haridopolos flopped. George LeMieux threw some big punches at Mack but they didn’t catch on. Adam Hasner and Craig Miller got out to run for Congress. Conservatives liked Mike McCalister but he didn’t go anywhere. Dave Weldon got in late and never made up the ground he needed to.
West would have had an excellent chance of winning that primary. Conservatives who ended up backing Weldon and McCalister would have been happier behind West. As Nelson and LeMieux showed, Mack didn’t deal well with political attacks. West’s freewheeling style and sharp attacks would have taken their toll on Mack. Beating Nelson would have been a stretch, but it’s hard to imagine West being as lethargic and uninspired as Mack proved to be in the general election. West would have at least won points with Republicans for taking the fight to Nelson, despite 2012 turning out to be a good year for the Democrats. That’s an easier loss to excuse than getting beat out by Murphy.
To be sure, West is still on the stage. But he would have been better positioned for the future had he rolled the dice and taken on Nelson.
Tallahassee-based political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.