His only experience in federal office before becoming president was a single term in the House of Representatives. Two years before his election, he lost a race for the U.S. Senate.
Why do I write about Abraham Lincoln at the start of a column about my favorite congressman? Because Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., won't be my favorite congressman much longer. He was narrowly defeated for re-election amid questions about chicanery in St. Lucie County.
National Democrats hope this will be the end of him, politically. If conservatives are smart, it will be just the beginning.
Mr. West, 51, is a hero at a time when we have few such. An Army officer, Lt. Col. West was commanding an artillery battalion in Taji, Iraq, in 2004 when he learned of a plot to ambush his men involving an Iraqi civilian police officer. To get the man to talk, Col. West fired his pistol near the man's head. That was the right thing to do. There were no more ambushes during the time he commanded the battalion.
But it was against the rules. When he pulled the trigger, Col. West knew he was sacrificing his career to protect his troops. Shortly after receiving non-judicial punishment, he retired.
After leaving the Army, Mr. West taught history in high school and was a civilian advisor to the Afghan army. He ran for Congress in 2008, lost, ran again in 2010, and won.
Articulate, passionate, fearless, Allen West fought as hard in Congress for conservative principle as he had for his troops in Iraq. He's a modest, deeply religious man who puts God, America and his family ahead of himself.
And Allen West is black. That's why Democrats are terrified of him.
If their candidate is another white guy, Republicans may never win another national election. Blacks voted for President Obama 93 percent to 6 percent. Hispanics voted for him, 71 to 27.
Asian-Americans voted for President Obama, 73-26. That's shocking.
"If the Republican Party can't win the support of the immigrant group with the strongest family values and the most success in achieving the American dream, what can it say to the Hispanics, the immigrant group with the least success in achieving the American dream?" asked David Goldman.
The opportunity for gains may be greatest among blacks. About 30 percent of African-Americans are conservative, surveys indicate. But two thirds of black conservatives vote the same as black liberals, because racial solidarity has been more important to them than ideology.
Because he's devoted his life to serving his country, Allen West is not wealthy. Conservatives who are should create an organization that could pay Mr. West about $250,000 a year, and send him around the country to bring the conservative message to people who don't normally hear it.
Spreading the conservative message to minorities is vitally important. But the larger purpose would be to create a national platform for Allen West.
He isn't the only guy we should be thinking about for 2016. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana is objectively the smartest man in politics. He may be the most popular governor in America. He'd have special appeal to Asians. No one can sing America's song better than Sen. Marco Rubio of Fla. For Hispanics of Mexican descent, Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico may have more appeal.
But conservatives should think seriously about Allen West, despite his loss this year. Republicans chose Abraham Lincoln because of how well he articulated their principles in his losing race.
No one articulates conservative principles better than Allen West. No other potential contender has his military experience, or demonstrated so much character under fire. His term in the House adds breadth to his life experience.
When God shuts a door, He opens a window, Allen West believes. Losing his House seat may be God's way of telling Mr. West it's time to move to a larger stage.
Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/