The car bearing Allen West to the Capitol pulls over so the former House member can show identification to a security guard. The officer recognizes him instantly and pushes West's ID away. Then he reaches into the passenger-side window and pulls the Army veteran in for a bro-hug. "We gotta get you back here," the officer says.
"Oh, I'll be back," West replies, flashing his slightly gap-toothed smile. "Tell the fellas."
The truth is, Allen West never really left. During his single term in the House, which ended in January, he carved a path as distinctive as his trademark salt-and-pepper flattop -- not just for his bombastic rhetoric but also for being the first black Republican elected from Florida since Reconstruction. Some might slink away from Washington after losing their first reelection battle in one of the nation's best-funded campaigns, and in a district carried by Mitt Romney. Not West, the Tea Party outsider who decided he'd hold onto his Capitol Hill basement apartment. "Of course I did," he says, as if it were even a question.
And why would it be? He's still at the Capitol about three days a week to conduct interviews for a new Internet-based television show he hosts -- one of West's many ventures. He has a contract to appear frequently on Fox News. He funded a nonprofit (the Allen West Foundation, of course), finished a book manuscript (coming early next year), and raised impressive amounts of campaign cash (leading plenty of people to speculate about his plans for 2016). In the first six months of 2013, his Allen West Guardian Fund, a leadership PAC, pulled in $1.3 million, a figure on par with the upper echelon of his former House colleagues.