July 23, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

South Florida Race Showcases Two Sides of Allen West

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

In one recent spot, children on a playground quote West. "Member of the Communist Party," four children taunt.

"Bullying and name-calling have no place on the playground, or in Congress," Murphy says in the spot.  "I'll reach across the aisle and solve problems."

'No One Else Defines Me'

If West's biggest liabilities in this race are the quotes he's best known for, Murphy's achilles heel is this: He is a blank slate in many voters' minds.

If West and his allies can convince swing voters that Murphy has little substance and a is a born-with-a-silver-spoon-in-his-mouth member of a rich family - their probable message - then the math for a Democratic victory here doesn't really work. The floor for Murphy, as a credible candidate, in this district is probably 47 percent. But that's 3 points away from a win.

West has the presence of Army officer, rather than a politician. In his posture, in his gait, in the way the he unfolds arguments in a speech, in his discipline of message in answering questions, he appears more military man than Congressman.

In an interview after his speech to the insurance group, he described what he has to do with his campaign.

"I have to be myself, that's all I gotta be," he said. "There are people who get paid to sit down and do all the microtargeting and things of that nature. The most important thing for me is to be a very qualified candidate who can articulate these issues like no one else. That's the key.

"The strategic battle is to continue to get this message out, to talk about the issues and to define myself," West said. "Because no one else defines me."

He's right. But which definition of West sticks in the minds of swing voters as they go to the polls will determine the outcome of the election.

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