In 2012 race for Congress, rage is out, solutions are in (even if it's just a good ad slogan)
This is Congressman Allen West in Washington: aggressive, blunt and partisan — the tea party hero who compares Democrats to communists and Nazis.
This is Candidate Allen West on TV in South Florida: even-mannered and surrounded by smiling schoolkids.
It's a shift that his opponent hopes voters don't buy. "Congress shouldn't be a kids' playground," Democrat Patrick Murphy says in an ad, standing to punctuate a point about West's rhetoric. "They're supposed to analyze problems and work together to solve them."
The contest for Florida's 18th district reveals how much the national mood has shifted in two years since West and a wave of Republicans were elected to the U.S. House amid epic battles with Democrats over everything from health care to energy-efficient light bulbs.
The partisanship, helped by a Democratic-controlled Senate, resulted in one of the least productive Congresses and drove public approval to all-time lows.
So candidates in 2012 are responding with messages that play up a familiar "Washington is broken" refrain along with a side order of "let's all get along." Rage is out, solutions are in.
• "We've got to find a way to work together," says Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, in an ad that makes no mention he's an incumbent and ends with an outsider's lament: "Because Washington needs to hear this."
• "If you like name calling or slick political ads, then flip the channel. But if you're looking for someone who thinks both parties got us in this mess, then hear me out," says Adam Hasner, a Republican running for Congress in South Florida who was once touted as one of the most partisan state lawmakers in Tallahassee.
• "In Congress, I'll work with both parties," says Joe Garcia, a Democrat seeking to dislodge Rep. David Rivera of Miami.