Three of the most virulently conservative voices in the House are facing tough re-election campaigns. All three are leading, but not by much, and in two of the races the GOP candidates are attempting to separate themselves from the harsh personas that they themselves had manufactured.
In Florida, there’s Allen West, who was up by anywhere from one to nine points in October, depending on which poll you believe. As Politico reports:
“Rep. Allen West’s GOP primary opponent endorsed the controversial Floridian’s Democratic challenger Wednesday and is slamming West.
“As a Republican for over 30 years, I’m embarrassed by the radical fringe that has taken over the party,” Martin County Sheriff Bob Crowder said in a statement released through Democrat Patrick Murphy’s campaign.
“Sadly, Allen West is their poster child, and the hateful, divisive comments he’s made throughout this campaign make it clear to me he’s the wrong choice for our district. I’m endorsing Patrick because he has the right temperament and respect for others – including people he doesn’t agree with. Unlike his opponent, Patrick will be able to work with both parties to make a difference for our community.”
West defeated Crowder in August with almost 75 percent of the vote.”
In Minnesota, there’s Michele Bachmann, who’s running in a district redrawn to be safe for a Republican. Even with that advantage and a huge campaign treasury, she’s only up by somewhere between two and six points, depending on which October poll you believe. And as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports, the previously strident Bachmann has adopted a different strategy for keeping her job, trying to portray herself as moderate, responsible and bipartisan.
“I’ve worked with Democrats across the aisle to get a lot of things done and it’s important we do that,” Bachmann said (in a Thursday debate). “I’m a very independent person.” She used the debate to tout the times she had bucked her own party, saying “I didn’t believe George Bush … that we were looking at financial Armageddon,” and stressing her work with Democrats on the St. Croix River bridge.”
And in Iowa, U.S. Rep. Steve King is taking much the same survival tack to hold onto his lead of two to seven percentage points in his newly drawn district:
“Iowa State University political science professor Steffen Schmidt said the race has proven tighter than expected.
“They’ve both been pretty smart in how they’ve run their campaigns,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt said King has “adjusted his campaign rhetoric somewhat,” and tacked away from far right positions that were popular among voters in the former 5th congressional district.
“He hasn’t really run on that pure, true tea party conservative agenda,” Schmidt said. “That is probably smart, because the district is more complicated now. You’re not going to appeal as much with your hard-core positions on things like illegal immigration to a new bunch of voters in parts of the district who are moderate.”
In the end, all three GOP candidates may win their races, but the narrowness of their apparent margins and — in the case of Bachmann and King — the necessity to tack back toward the center to stay viable says a lot about the mood of the American voter.
– Jay Bookman