The door is open — just a crack, but open nonetheless. He claims people within the party have sought him out to talk about a run, not vice versa, so this is more than just a congressman idly speculating about higher office. I wonder if his debt-ceiling vote is what did it. Before that, Democrats could have run against him as a lockstep tea partier who’s more interested in casting symbolic no votes than moving legislation through Congress. Now that argument is harder.

Which is not to say they won’t still make it.

But, he said, he’s opened the door to discussions on the possibility.

“I cracked it open enough so that people can slip a note under the door and I can read the note and I can write back on the note ‘probably not’ and send it back out under the door,” West said before he spoke to a Palm Beach County Tea Party gathering.

“There are people here in the state of Florida that see me as a political entity and they are very trustworthy within the Republican Party structure. I should sit down and talk to them,” he said. “But I don’t think people are really going to be able to move me.”

His comments are a shift from what he said one week ago. In an Aug. 9 interview with Sun Sentinel reporters and editors he gave a definitive “no” when asked if there was “any chance” he’d run for the Senate instead of seeking re-election.

He raised more money in the second quarter for his House reelection bid than any Republican nationally raised for their Senate bid so he should have cash to burn if he challenges Bill Nelson. There’s also a fair chance that Rubio will be on the ticket next year as VP; if that happens, turnout among Florida Republicans (tea partiers especially) should be more massive than expected, with West benefiting down-ballot even though ordinarily he might be considered too far right for a purplish state like Florida. In fact, the mere possibility of this happening is Rubio’s legacy: He proved that even a big-name centrist like Crist could be crushed in Florida by an out-and-proud conservative with grassroots cred. Maybe party chieftains are thinking that rather than repeat the ugliness of a “true conservative”/RINO primary fight, they’ll back a more right-wing candidate from the get-go and hope that the nominating process is smooth.

The big catch here is that the tea party’s polling is down after the debt-ceiling deal. There’s no way for West to escape the label, notwithstanding his break from TPers in backing Boehner, so if those numbers persist into next year he’ll have to deal with the baggage. In fact, early word today was that tea partiers were set to confront him at tonight’s town hall meeting in Florida; as it turns out, despite disapproving of his debt-ceiling vote, they apparently back him almost to the hilt. Here’s video via the Shark Tank of West justifying his vote at another town hall yesterday.