The year 2008 is gearing up to be better for Republicans than expected. A few months ago, a Rasmussen poll showed Republican Party affiliation at its highest level in two and a half years. In state to state matchups, our presidential candidate does much better than anyone had expected just a few short months ago. And while it’s highly improbable that Republicans will regain the Senate (though not impossible, if Reid, Pelosi and a Democratic presidential nominee who’s naive on national security combine to turn voters away from Democrats in general), regaining the House is a better possibility.
To be sure, even House Republicans aren’t exactly favored to regain control. In fact, if we do regain the House much will have to do with the unpopular positions of the Democratic Congress and objection to the laissez-faire national security policies of the party’s nominee (as well as disdain for the overall inaction of the Pelosi led House). But we are definitely poised to pick up a number of seats, something that would put us in a position to retake majority control sooner rather than later, within the next few cycles.
For Republicans to regain the House as soon as possible, it’s crucial that we win as many winnable House seats as possible this time around. For this reason it is critical that we pinpoint the seats we can best pick up and concentrate on them, meaning that Republicans nationwide, especially those living in non-swing congressional districts (as well as Republicans abroad), should support candidates outside of their districts who are in real battles. It is especially important that we concentrate on those seats this year, as the easiest time to beat any incumbent is after the first term. In short, if we want to regain the House anytime soon, we need to regain as many Republican seats as possible in 2008.
One crucial race is FL-22, the former seat of Rep. E. Clay Shaw. During the Democratic Tsunami of 2006, Democrat Ron Klein managed to barely eek out a win with 51% of the vote. Wining back the seat is crucial to eventually retaking Congress and this year’s the best and easiest year to do it.
Aside from the fact that FL-22 is a critical swing race, winning it back this year comes with another significant advantage. Republicans have fielded a war hero who’s articulate and who connects instantly with the public in a manner that’s rarely seen. Lt. Col. Allen West is a stellar, honest and ethical public servant who can help the Republican cause on a national level.
I recently had the opportunity to hear Lt. Col. West speak at several events. The reaction of audiences was the same each time. Staunch Republicans wanted to know why he’s not on the Sunday shows countering Democratic attacks. After one event a friend of mine who had been undecided told me “I may not be a Republican, but this man knows what he’s talking about. I’m supporting him.” Judging by the general atmosphere, that’s the feeling most undecideds have after hearing Allen West.
He’s articulate. His points are rooted in sound logic, that he conveys concisely and effectively. He has the PR skills that are missing in so many of our national leaders. After watching Republicans get hammered for years for being unable to defend sound policy and right decisions against skewed Democratic attacks because no one in the GOP could formulate a message that resonates, hearing Allen West is refreshing. I’m not sure if he got this ability after leaving the army, when he decided to dedicate himself to teaching high school students, incidentally motivating far more of them to go on to college or military service than any other teacher at his school (a high school I know well and have twice lectured at). It could be that he gets this ability naturally. But whatever the case, Allen West can deliver home the message and electing him ensures that his abilities are put to use on behalf of the GOP nationwide.
Perhaps his ability to communicate so effectively comes from his personal life story. After a twenty year career as an army officer, West took an immense risk in order to save the lives of the men in his unit. Terrorists had been shooting at his men for weeks and immediately prior to each shooting, a certain Iraqi police officer was seen nearby, suspiciously dealing with unknown men who shouldn’t have been let close to the US base. Members of West’s unit interrogated the Iraqi officer, who clammed up and refused to speak. At this point Col. West, knowing that other attacks were forthcoming, tried speaking with the officer himself. When that didn’t work he took out a gun, placed it above the conspirator’s head, fired it and lo and behold, he divulged where the attacks were coming from. After that the attacks stopped.
This didn’t stop the Iraqi officer/collaborator from complaining to the US Army that the firing of a gun was excessive, largely in order to deflect attention from his role in the attacks. And in one of the worst cases of politically correct persecutions, Col. West faced court martial over his actions. The army knew that the allegation was ridiculous, but felt a need to go through with a trial in an over the top attempt to show the Iraqi government that they are taking every precaution. Still, since they knew he was innocent, they offered West a chance to retire weeks short of his 20 year mark, when he’d otherwise become pensionable. West refused.
The outcry against the absurdity of this case was fast, furious and fierce. Conservative and liberal leaders alike decried the idea of putting Col. West through such an ordeal for simply having saved the lives of his unit, even if they knew that in the end the flimsy complaint would not stand. The army quickly backed down, but not without causing stress and harm to Allen West. Still, when asked if he’d do it again, West unequivocally replies in a humble but certain manner “yes, those men were my family.” It’s this level of service and amount of sincerity that accounts for his ability to project and communicate in ways that others can’t. It should also be noted that Col. West would be the first African-American Republican congressman since J.C. Watts.
In short, FL-22 has national ramifications. If we win it, Republicans will have a leader in Congress who will be unique among his peers. He’ll also be a PR powerhouse for Republicans nationwide. And that’s in addition to the strategic need to regain the district as part of any plan to eventually retaking the House.