While the eyes of the state have been focused on the Republican primary contest for the right to take on Barack Obama, the focus on the GOP primary to retire Bill Nelson has mostly gone unnoticed.
That’s unfortunate. This race has been as exiting if not more, than this lagging national primary.
About this time last year George Lemieux had already declared his candidacy. His top challenger was to be former State Majority leader Adam Hasner. The two well spoken candidates had a few noteworthy exchanges, Lemieux labeling Hasner a moderate, Hasner calling Lemieux, GOP turned Indy Guv Charlie Crist’s “Go to guy”. Senate President Mike Harodopolis would briefly enter the fray before a meltdown in Tallahassee and series of campaign faux pas would lead to his early exit. Restaranteur Craig Miller and Col. Mike McCalister were also in the race but, would take the backseat to the Lemieux/Hasner battles.
A key ingredient was missing in this key primary that would nominate a candidate to take on the entrenched Democrat.
Enthusiasm. Nelson was polling double digits ahead of all of these guys. This had the party wondering if the solution was in the current crop of candidates.
Enter Connie Mack IV. The famous name with the ties to raise money. He declared and shot to the top of the polls.
Adam Hasner checked down to run for the House in South Florida, Miller went east to campaign for the newly created CD 6 House seat. McCalister remains but is invisible in the polls.
George Lemieux wasn’t going anywhere. Why should he? He was the money leader. He held major endorsements. He’d served albeit a short time in the Senate and wasn’t going to step aside for Mack. He shot out releases blasting Connie Mack’s absence from the state, pointing out that the Congressman preferred working from California with his wife, fellow House Representative Mary Bono Mack.
Mack’s ascension continued. He was only a point or two behind Bill Nelson. Was he going to walk in and take this nomination?
Shots fired. Mack largely ignored the ad instead, focusing on fundraising and stumping for GOP Prez frontrunner Mitt Romney. The questions would still come.
Lemeiux’s offensive would continue with a winning a streak of straw polls and a growing number of state legislators endorsing the former senator. He doubled down on the Charlie Sheen rhetoric releasing a fake endorsement from the “Winning” Warlock with Tiger Blood running through his veins on April Fools day.
Yesterday, Mack responded with a number. One Million. His fundraising haul for the quarter.
Mack’s message has the tone of a general election contest. Most of the time ignoring Lemieux’s accusations and focusing on Bill Nelson. As the debate season kicks off that will seem unlikely to continue as both should have plenty of cash on hand to run an effective “air war” over the television.
It’s already personal and it’s not that Mack doesn’t have the discipline to stay silent, I believe as the primary approaches that the party is going to want to see Mack mix it up. If he doesn’t how is he going to compete with Bill Nelson sharing a ballot with President Obama?
Crist vs. Rubio? Please! Charlie Crist was too nice and took frequent beatdowns from Rubio and at times Democrat Kendrick Meek. “You don’t know what’s in my heart”? yeah that was Crist for you.
There will be aggression, there will be accusations and it will get even more personal.
Will you be watching?