Western Conservatives High on Ben Carson, Allen West, Low on Jeb Bush
Around the State
Two African-American Republicans with eyes on 2016 -- U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., and Dr. Ben Carson -- will be taking center stage when both speak at the three-day Western Conservative Summit taking place in Denver, Colo., July 18-20. This annual conference has been held in Denver since 2010.
Sunshine State News talked to John Andrews, the chairman of the Western Conservative Summit and director of the Centennial Institute, on how West, Carson and other potential Republican presidential candidates from Florida are seen by conservatives in Colorado and the region.
Asked about reactions to both West and Carson, Andrews said both men were picking up steam in the Mountain West.
“I would say that you can’t underestimate the excitement ... for both of these Floridians,” Andrews told Sunshine State News. “Especially Carson.”
Carson, a prominent neurosurgeon who entered the political realm in 2013, when he criticized President Barack Obama’s federal health-care law at the National Prayer Breakfast, has increasingly shown signs of running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. After retiring from Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland, Carson -- who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor -- is now based out of West Palm Beach.
Andrews referenced Carson’s speech, saying “he electrified the country” and said Western conservatives were “excited and intrigued about whether he’d run for president.”
Praising Carson as an innovator, Andrews said his background would help him deal with Obama’s health-care law. “He’s got so much credibility with his medical background,” Andrews said, pointing toward Carson’s “calm, cool, common-sense logic.”
Turning to West, Andrews said the former congressman was “well-received” at last year’s summit and he could have beaten out U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to win the presidential straw poll had he spoken before it. This year, the straw poll won’t close until all of the potential candidates speak.
Despite losing to U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., in 2012, West has remained politically active, backing candidates through his Allen West Guardian Fund PAC and leaving the door open to an electoral comeback in 2016. West has expressed some interest in running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 but he has also said he would look at running for the U.S. Senate if U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., opts not to run for a second term.
Asked about other potential candidates from Florida, Andrews said Rubio had some support in the region despite his position on immigration reform.
“Western conservatives have a lot of admiration for Rubio,” Andrews said, though he warned it was “tempered” by immigration reform, before looking at former Gov. Jeb Bush.
“I can’t say the same thing about Jeb Bush,” Andrews said, even as he praised the former governor’s work on education reform. While Andrews called Bush a “hero” for his work on education, he added that the former Florida governor’s support for Common Core has “tarnished” him with Western conservatives. Andrews also said Bush’s position on immigration, such as criticizing Arizona’s law, and his father and brother also serving in the White House, have undermined his standing with conservatives.
“Between Common Core, immigration and the Bush family, Western conservatives would not be warm to an address from Gov. Bush,” said Andrews.
Seeing the Republican primaries as the most open since Wendell Wilkie won the nomination in 1940, Andrews told Sunshine State News that Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., is a dark horse worth keeping an eye on. Noting Walker was currently facing accusations of campaign finance abuses, Andrews said he was a politician with “substance over charisma” and a solid, conservative record in office.
Besides Carson and West, other speakers at the event include Cruz, former Gov. Sarah Palin, R-Alaska, Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.