West would later observe of Democrats: “I must confess, when I see anyone with an Obama 2012 bumper sticker, I recognize them as a threat to the gene pool.”
Each man became an iconic representation of his party’s political fortunes two years ago, when Democrats lost their majority in the House and Republicans assembled a more conservative class of 87 freshmen determined to change the way Washington worked.
If Washington changed at all, the consensus would be that it was not for the better.
That has left some victors in 2010 on the defensive in 2012, while some of the Democratic losers are plotting comebacks.
Grayson is one of several former House Democrats, including former congressmen Charlie Wilson (D-Ohio), Dan Maffei (D-N.Y.) and Bill Foster (D-Ill.), who are running in hopes of returning to Washington. Grayson’s victory appears all but guaranteed.
Todd Long, Grayson’s poorly funded GOP opponent, said the former congressman doesn’t deserve another term: “He had his chance, he was thrown out. Grayson, instead of working with people, just started screaming at Republicans and calling people names.”
Along Florida’s Treasure Coast, West remains locked in one of the year’s most competitive races involving a GOP lawmaker despite raising about $15 million for his reelection. The sum is the most ever by a rank-and-file House member, but Democrat Patrick Murphy, a 29-year-old who helps run his family’s construction company, is using his $3 million campaign war chest to remind voters of West’s attacks on the Obama administration and House Democrats.
“We get calls from Republicans every day who say, ‘We’re lifelong Republicans, but we’re not going to support West,’ ” Murphy said. “We need fiscal responsibility, but he went off on a social right-wing agenda.”
West was one of two African American Republicans elected to Congress in 2010 as part of the tea party wave. A former Army lieutenant colonel who was honorably discharged amid questions about his interrogation of an Iraqi military official, West won his race in a Palm Beach-area district, but moved into a neighboring district when his home turf was redrawn and Democrats gained an edge in voter enrollment.
“If you dislike me just because of the things I say, okay, so what?” West said in a recent interview. “I’m not here for a popularity contest. If you want to reduce me to a sound-bite caricature, good luck. It’s a free country, you’re free to hate me, but I’m free to continue to fight for your liberties and freedoms, and that’s exactly what I’ll do.”