By Javier Manjarres
With the recent news that Adam Hasner has dropped out of the Republican U.S. Senate primary race in Florida, the field of candidates narrows, leaving two men standing. The focus will be primarily on Congressman Connie Mack as the frontrunner and presumptive nominee.
Former Senator George LeMieux has been running a distant second to Mack, but after this week, the gap between the two candidates will likely widen, as Governor Mitt Romney has had Mack stumping for him around the state. Romney has introduced Mack as “The next Senator for the state of Florida.” Not exactly an endorsement, but the statement weighs just as heavy, as Romney is now the presumptive Presidential nominee and will command considerable influence and campaign dollars.
Probably the biggest liability that LeMieux has been trying to overcome is his past relationship with Governor Charlie Crist. LeMieux is known as “The Maestro” of Governor Crist’s past campaigns, and has even referred to himself as a “Charlie Crist Republican.” The problem with that characterization is that Crist stabbed the GOP in the back and ran as an Independent against Senator Marco Rubio in the 2010 general election, and he even said that he would consider voting for President Barack Obama over the Republican Presidential nominee.
This would be expected from the the #1 political chameleon of our time, but for LeMieux, it keeps reminding Republican activists about the Charlie Crist/George LeMieux connection. It is known that LeMieux was Crist’s top guy for awhile, even after Crist embraced the now failed $787 Billion Obama Stimulus Act of 2009. Remember that LeMieux did vote pretty conservatively during his 16 month stint in the U.S. Senate.
But even as LeMieux was Crist’s best buddy, Congressman Connie Mack was also tied at the hip to Charlie Crist during the 2010 election cycle, as he endorsed Crist over Rubio, and accepted the position of state chairmanship for the Charlie Crist for Senate campaign. Mack was one of the first to side with Crist, even after Crist campaigned with President Obama ahead of the vote on the stimulus act, and continued supporting him until he turned Independent. Word on the street is that Connie Mack supported Charlie Crist primarily because of a long family history between his Dad, Connie Mack III and the former Governor of Florida. Redstate’s Erick Erickson said of Mack, “his voting record in the House was conservative, (but) he never proved himself to be a guy willing to stand up to leadership and actually fight.”
Conservative Radio Show host Mark Levin has also been outspoken against Mack, referring to him as a “moderate” Republican.
One of Mack’s biggest issues is the perception that he spends little time in his congressional district. Mack’s wife is Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack from California, and because he is not seen as much around his Florida District, the assumption is that he is making his primary residence in sunny California.
Disgruntled constituents also feel that Mack has taken a ‘safe’ approach to politics by not injected himself into some of the more pressing and visible issues that have been covered in the media. Mack, who lists on his website that he is a Catholic, has also drawn the ire of pro-life conservatives with his multiple votes backing tax payer funded human embryo destruction (ESCR), including a vote to override a veto from President George W. Bush to defend human life.
But given the negative public perception that both candidates have regarding their ties to Charlie Crist, does this issue make room for a more conservative and less compromised Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate?
Many of these conservatives are saying that Romney’s recent appearances with Connie Mack at his Presidential campaign events were a turn off, thus making the case for the low level of support in the northern part of the state. Interestingly, Governor Mitt Romney squeaked past Speaker Newt Gingrich in some solidly conservative counties in northern Florida, narrowly winning Duval County-where in 2008, he handily beat Senator John McCain.
It’s likely that conservative activists across the state will continue to voice their disapproval towards both of these candidates, and they are hoping that a conservative replacement for Adam Hasner will soon enter the race. Will either Connie Mack or George LeMieux reach out to the conservative base in time to shore up their support? For all intents and purposes, this Senate race may be far from over.