Can't Allen West Just Come Back in 2014?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 20 2012 9:15 AM

Can't Allen West Just Come Back in 2014?

The defeat of Rep. Allen West is a brandy-soaked cherry on top of the Democrats' 2012 sundae. Democrats didn't merely dislike West the way they dislike Michele Bachmann. West had won a swing seat in 2010, after liberals convinced themselves that he was too out there to pull it off. Had he won again (in a safer seat), it would have validated his politics and screw-you attitude toward Democrats like Debbie Wasserman Schultz. (Though I think he was right to be irritated at Schultz for attacking him from the House floor.) Also, West blew through $20 million, and retained strategists like Chris LaCivita, a veteran of the Swift Boat campaign who was prone to calling vote-counters morons, and promising a lenghty blood-splattered battle.

But, well, can't he just bounce back in 2014? Sure he can. The 18th district, won in a squeaker by 29-year old Democrat Patrick Murphy, really should be open to voting Republican. It consists (going down the map) of St. Lucie County, Martin County, and part of Palm Beach County. West's defeat had a lot to do with a Democratic surge in St. Lucie, which has a larger black population -- 19.5 percent -- than Florida as a whole. Obama carried it by 8 points with 65,869 votes. Murphy (who's white) carried it by 10 points, with 65,567 votes. Had West got as many votes in St. Lucie as Mitt Romney did, he would have won.

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What will happen in 2014? It'll be a midterm year, harder to rebuild the Obama coalition. In 2010's gubernatorial race, for example, Democrat Alex Sink won St. Lucie County with 51 percent of the vote, but only 35,432 total votes. Martin County, which turned out to be a stronghold for West, cast 54,227 votes that year; St. Lucie cast 69,449. In 2010, the numbers were 75,857 in Martin (an increase of 28 percent) and 118,239 in St. Lucie (an increase of 70 percent).

Basically, in order to hang on, Murphy needs to be a perfect incumbent and needs the next Democratic nominee for governor -- possibly the reformed Charlie Crist -- to grind out South Florida votes in an approximation of the Obama machine. He also needs some conservatives to waste money the way they wasted it this year, on scammy PACs that claim to raise money for West but do nothing of the source.

UPDATE: This post originally included a fundraising pitch from The Tea Party Leadership Fund, which told potential donors that it would give its proceeds to a West recount. West had a problem with PAC exploitation, but the Fund -- while it was one of the last organizations to make the ask -- actually did help the candidate. "We sent West a check for $5000 last week for his recount (on top of $2500 during the campaign – then our legal maximum as we had not yet been around 6 months to become a multi-candidate committee), and spent additional funds on IE’s supporting his election," writes Dan Backer, counsel for the Fund. I regret the error and apologize to these guys.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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