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[June 22, 2014]
Fox News commentator or presidential candidate -- What's next for Allen West? [Treasure Coast Newspapers, Stuart, Fla. :: ]
(Treasure Coast Newspapers (Stuart, FL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) June 22--Losing to U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy in one of the biggest political upsets of 2012 might have benefitted Allen West -- at least from a self-marketing standpoint.
He became a Fox News commentator.
He wrote a book.
He signed up with a speakers group and travels coast to coast for engagements, most recently at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans.
He raised more than $3 million through his political committee, the Allen West Guardian Fund, even hosting a fundraiser with Donald Trump at a lavish Palm Beach hotel in March.
And he continues to make headlines with his controversial comments, such as calling for President Barack Obama's impeachment over the swap of an American soldier for five Taliban Guantanamo Bay detainees.
By staying in the national spotlight, West either could be making a career out of his popularity among conservatives or setting himself up to run for office again. Indeed, West has said he's considering running for president or the U.S. Senate in 2016.
A recent Public Policy Polling report shows West would beat U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Broward County Democrat, 41 percent to 40 percent if they ran for Sen. Marco Rubio's seat -- and if Rubio didn't run for re-election.
"My life has moved on, and I think I'm busier now than I was as a member of Congress," West, 53, said in a phone interview this month. "I think my voice has resonated across the country, so I have no complaints." STAYING RELEVANT West has been successful at remaining current on the political scene, said Susan MacManus, University of South Florida political science and public administration professor.
"Visibility and continuing visibility are very important if you lose a race and then get back into the game," MacManus said.
He still lives in District 18 -- Palm Beach Gardens -- where six Republicans are struggling to match his name recognition and campaign funding to unseat Murphy, a Jupiter Democrat. West raised more than $19 million in his 2012 campaign while all GOP candidates combined raised $865,000 as of March 31, records show.
West endorsed Ellen Andel, but since she dropped out of the race in February, he has not said whether he will support another candidate.
"There's a lot of other things going on that have my attention right now," West said.
A lot of his time is devoted to attending events for his Guardian Fund, a PAC he created to support conservative minority and veteran candidates, and the Allen West Foundation, a nonprofit that seeks to motivate conservatives and veterans to engage in politics.
West's activities could be setting him up to run for office or simply garnering attention so he can keep his speaking engagements and write more books, WPTV political analyst Brian E. Crowley said.
There are other conservatives with more political clout who could be on the Republican presidential ticket, Crowley said, and West's loss in District 18, which had more registered Republicans than Democrats in 2012, is not a good track record. He also lost a congressional race in Broward County in 2008.
"There's nothing (West) brings to the table," Crowley said. "If you're looking for ideological purity, I feel (U.S. Sens.) Ted Cruz and Rand Paul and a couple other guys fit that role. They've got national standing, and they didn't just lose a race in a Republican-leaning district." STAYING POPULAR Still, West is likely to raise a lot of money as he did in 2012 if he runs for office again, said Florida Atlantic University political science professor Kevin Wagner.
Bill Paterson, chair of the St. Lucie County Republican Party and West's close friend, said West continues to draw a lot of support because, "no matter which group he's speaking to, he tells them exactly how he feels about an issue." Supporters from Texas and California, for example, shipped sandwiches to West's campaign volunteers during the District 18 vote recount in 2012 so they could work overnight, Paterson said.
If social media is any indication West has maintained his popularity, his Facebook page created in January 2013 has more than 1 million "likes." Rubio's page has roughly 682,000 and Murphy's campaign page has 20,000.
West's latest reported public appearance on the Treasure Coast was a signing event in St. Lucie West in May for his autobiography, "Guardian of the Republic," in which he talks about his conservative values and attacks the Obama administration.
His name still resonates with many people in the area, said District 18 GOP candidate Calvin Turnquest, who also is a black conservative.
"As soon as I knock on someone's door and I tell them I'm running for Congress and I'm a Republican," Turnquest said, "the first thing they ask is 'Are you Allen West Republican?' " So far, none of the GOP candidates in District 18 has shown the same conservative, inflammatory rhetoric that made West notorious nationwide, and which continues to be his brand of politics.
"One thing the district showed is that while many voters want someone who is a conservative, they don't necessarily want someone who's an extremist," Crowley said. "West has often come across as extremist, and I think that hurt him." ALLEN WEST GUARDIAN FUND Revenue: $3.7 million (January 2013-March 31) Treasure Coast contributions: $24,000 Expenditures: $2.5 million Campaign contributions: $59,000 Other: Hotels, airfare, event planning, direct mailing and credit card fees, but public records do not indicate whether the expenses were for West or candidates.
Endorsements: 14 is his goal; majority will come after primary Funded candidates: Mia Love of Utah Dan Bongino of Maryland Mark Bircher of Seminole Tom Cotton of Arkansas E.W. Jackson, a Virginia lieutenant governor candidate SOURCE: Federal Election Commission, Guardian Fund, West's spokeswoman ___ (c)2014 the Treasure Coast Newspapers (Stuart, Fla.) Visit the Treasure Coast Newspapers (Stuart, Fla.) at www.tcpalm.com Distributed by MCT Information Services
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