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Obama, Nelson back on top in Florida, poll shows

Thursday, June 21st, 2012 by John Kennedy

With independent voters shifting to his side, President Obama has regained the lead in Florida over presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, while in the Florida Senate race, Democrat Bill Nelson would edge Republican Connie Mack, a poll Thursday shows.

The Quinnipiac University survey showed Obama with a 46-42 percent lead over Romney, reversing its own May poll that showed the Republican with the advantage in the nation’s biggest toss-up state.

Independent voters, which a month ago were siding more with Romney, have shifted toward Obama, who now holds a 46-37 percent advantage in those not allied with either party.

“At this point, Romney is not well-defined in the minds of many voters, especially those in the middle,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac poll.  “This movement reflects that uncertainty among voters who are up for grabs.”

Florida’s U.S. Senate race also appears up-for-grabs. The survey’s release coincided with the departure of Republican George LeMieux from the race, whose dropping out appears to clear the nomination path for Mack, already the clear frontrunner.

Mack was supported by 41 percent of Republican voters in the survey, with neither remaining rivals, former Army Col. Mike McCalister or former U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon cracking double digits.

Nelson, seeking a third term in the Senate, still tops Mack by 43-39 percent, Quinnipiac found. Mack and Nelson were tied in the school’s May survey.

Brown said the “projected November election between U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Mack looks like it could go down to the wire.”

“Sen. Nelson gets modest reviews from voters who give him a 47 – 32 percent job approval rating,” Brown said. “By 46 – 33 percent they say he deserves another term.  He gets a 44 – 26 percent favorability rating.  By comparison, Mack has a 34 – 22 percent favorability rating, with 42 percent who don’t know enough about him to form an opinion.”

The telephone survey was conducted June 12-18 and included 1,697 registered voters. It has a margin-of-error of plus-or-minus 2.4 percentage points.



GOP Senate front-runner Mack declines primary debates, accepts invite to debate Nelson in fall

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012 by George Bennett


With former Gov. Jeb Bush and other big-name Republicans backing Rep. Connie Mack‘s Senate bid and polls showing him with a sizeable lead over his GOP rivals, the Mack campaign says a debate of Republican candidates would only help Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

So Mack has turned down invitations from The Orlando Sentinel and The Tampa Bay Times to participate in debates with GOP rivals George LeMieux, Mike McCalister and David Weldon. And Mack has effectively said no to an invitation from Leadership Florida to participate in a July 24 Republican primary debate in Tallahassee.

“We are prepared and willing to debate Sen. Nelson and feel that at this point any such Republican primary debate exercise would only serve to benefit Sen. Nelson, which no Republican wants to see,” Mack spokesman David James said today.


Mack blasts Nelson, Obama on Keystone pipeline in first radio ad

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012 by George Bennett


U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Cape Coral, isn’t merely looking beyond GOP Senate primary rivals George LeMieux and Mike McCalister in his paid media campaign. Mack is also skipping traditional introductory bio spots aimed at general election voters and proceeding straight to specific attacks on Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Mack’s first TV ad, released earlier this month, blasts stimulus supporter Nelson for a $144,541 provision in the $787 billion legislation to study the effects of cocaine on monkeys.

Obama and Nelson

Mack’s first radio ad, released today, takes aim at Nelson and President Obama for opposing a Senate measure last month to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. While voting against the measure, Nelson did vote for a failed Democratic version that would approve the pipeline on the condition that none of the Canadian crude oil be exported.

Read the transcript of Mack’s radio ad after the jump…


Mack faces tough questions on LeMieux’s home turf

Monday, April 23rd, 2012 by George Bennett


FORT LAUDERDALE — U.S. Rep. Connie Mack faced some tough questions tonight when he ventured onto GOP Senate primary rival George LeMieux‘s home turf and appeared before the Broward County Republican Executive Committee that LeMieux once chaired.

The crowd of more than 200 was polite but not particularly fired up as Mack, the frontrunner in GOP polls, contended that he’s the best candidate to challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in November.


“Obviously I know where I am tonight,” Mack said to LeMieux’s hometown crowd. “But I know that we have the same goal in mind. We want to beat Sen. Nelson…..I’ve got a very strong campaign.”

Fielding written questions from the audience, Mack was asked to differentiate himself from LeMieux and businessman Mike McCalister.

Mack didn’t mention his rivals, but touted his record of supporting limited government. Then, he added, “This is about Sen. Nelson. This race is about who is best able to beat Sen. Nelson and kick Harry Reid out of the Majority office. And I am in the best position to do that.”

Mack, who is married to California Rep. Mary Bono Mack, was asked how much time he spends in California and whether he’d release travel logs.


Sen. Bill Nelson underwhelms voters but has double-digit lead in Dem poll

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012 by George Bennett

Nelson: "Unusually low profile"

After more than 11 years in the Senate and decades on the Florida political scene, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has a 36 percent approval rating, a 32 percent disapproval score and an “unusually low profile for a sitting two-term Senator,” a Democratic polling firm says.

But Public Policy Polling says it’s still good enough to give Nelson a 47-37 lead over U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Cape Coral, the GOP frontrunner, and bigger leads over former appointed Sen. George LeMieux and businessman Mike McCalister.

PPP’s poll of 700 Florida voters, which has a 3.7 percent margin of error, was conducted Thursday through Sunday — before Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said he’s considering jumping into the GOP primary.

Click here to see the full poll and cross-tabs.

American Conservative Union endorses Mack in Senate race

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012 by George Bennett


As Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater mulls a late entry into the GOP Senate primary, the influential American Conservative Union has weighed in for U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Cape Coral.

ACU puts on the annual CPAC conferences and issues yearly ratings of congressional conservatism (Mack got a 92 percent ACU score last year, compared to 100 percent for Sen. Marco Rubio and 88 percent for Reps. Allen West and Tom Rooney).

Mack is running against former appointed Sen. George LeMieux and businessman Mike McCalister for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Here’s the endorsement statement from ACU Chairman Al Cardenas, a former Republican Party of Florida chairman: “From his proven leadership on pro-growth economic policies and energy independence solutions to his courageous efforts to bring attention to dangerous and tyrannical regimes across the world, it is clear Connie Mack is the innovative, conservative leader ready to take on Bill Nelson this fall. Liberals in the Senate have rubber-stamped President Obama’s agenda, and now it is time for voters to hold them accountable. Congressman Mack is one of many great conservatives running for Senate across the country, and the American Conservative Union PAC is proud to endorse him. The ACU PAC urges all Florida conservatives to support Connie Mack for U.S. Senate, and we look forward to aiding his victory in both the primary and general elections.”

GOP Senate debate organizers seek to avoid ‘bash-my-fellow-candidate’ event

Thursday, February 9th, 2012 by George Bennett

It’ll be more of a candidate forum than a back-and-forth debate this month when the Florida Federation of Republican Women hosts the first meeting of Republican U.S. Senate candidates since Rep. Connie Mack, R-Cape Coral, got into the race.

Mack, former appointed Sen. George LeMieux and businessman Mike McCalister are scheduled to participate in the Feb. 19 event in Tallahassee. The three are vying to run against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in November.

Candidates will appear together and make brief opening statements, then appear individually for 15 to 20 minutes apiece to answer questions from the audience and a moderator, said Federation 3rd VP Kim Carroll. While one candidate is answering questions, the others will be offstage and won’t hear the exchange with the audience, Caroll said. The candidates will then appear together at the end for a brief wrap-up.

“We don’t want to set it up so it’s a bash-my-fellow-candidate debate,” said Carroll, who said debates with all the candidates on stage together tend to devolve into “name-calling sessions” that distract from the issues.

Craig Miller drops Senate bid, will seek congressional seat

Monday, January 30th, 2012 by George Bennett

Former Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse CEO and former National Restaurant Association Chairman Craig Miller is leaving the crowded Republican U.S. Senate race and says he’ll run instead for a new coastal congressional district that’s expected to include parts of Volusia, Flagler, St. Johns and Putnam counties.

Miller recently snagged the endorsement of fellow restaurateur Herman Cain for the Senate race.

Miller leaves without endorsing any of the other GOP Senate hopefuls — former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner of Boca Raton, U.S. Rep. Connie Mack of Cape Coral, former appointed Sen. George LeMieux and businessman Mike McCalister.

“There are several very qualified candidates in the U.S. Senate race to represent our party, some with more name recognition and resources than our campaign. Therefore, I have chosen to shift my focus to serving the people of the new Coastal District,” Miller said in a statement released this morning.

“Having grown up on the Intracoastal Waterway and having spent a lifetime working in the Hospitality and Tourism industry, including opening and operating businesses in Volusia and St. John Counties, this new District offers me a unique opportunity to serve.”

Hasner challenges Mack, LeMieux to GOP Senate debates; McCalister and Miller can come, too

Friday, January 6th, 2012 by George Bennett

Hasner wants 10 debates of 90-minute duration with GOP Senate rivals.

Former state House majority leader Adam Hasner of Boca Raton has sent a letter to U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Cape Coral, and former appointed Sen. George LeMieux calling for a series of 10 debates around Florida in the crowded GOP Senate primary.

Despite strong support from national movement conservatives, Hasner has lagged in the polls behind not only Mack and LeMieux but businessman Mike McCalister and in the same single-digit neighborhood as businessman Craig Miller. Hasner addressed his letter only to Mack and LeMieux, but the letter says he hopes the Republican Party of Florida will invite McCalister and Miller as well.

The Republicans are vying for the right to challenge Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson in November.


Mack warns ‘loony liberals’ at the gates of his Cape Coral office

Thursday, December 1st, 2011 by John Kennedy

Launching his campaign by deriding rival Bill Nelson as one of President Obama’s “lockstep liberals,” Republican U.S. Senate contender Connie Mack is expecting to be picketed by what his office staff called  ”loony liberals” Thursday.

Mack’s namesake father punctured Democratic opponent Buddy Mackay 23 years ago with the phrase, “Hey Buddy, you’re liberal.” The son’s days-old campaign seems to be sticking to a similar script.

Southwest Florida supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement plan to protest at 1 p.m. today outside Mack’s Cape Coral office. But once Mack staffers got hold of the rally’s electronic sign-up sheet, they fired out a press release, tying the demonstration to, the left-leaning activist group founded by billionaire George Soros.

“It’s appalling that George Soros and the loony liberals of are protecting Bill Nelson by staging a sit-in protest at Congressman Mack’s office,” said David James, Mack’s deputy campaign manager. ”Three days after Connie Mack entered the race for U.S. Senate, these leftists are scared of the Mack candidacy and Connie’s message of freedom, security and prosperity.  Florida has had enough of the loony left and will bring an end to their big government, big taxation and big spending agenda next November.”

Polls show Mack is the frontrunner in five-person Republican field. At least one survey also shows him with enough current support to knock off Nelson, if Mack wins the GOP primary.

A new Public Policy Polling survey also shows Mack well out front in the Republican contest. It also examines the potency of name identification, but doesn’t attribute all of Mack’s success to having a well-known monicker.

The poll found Mack’s name is recognized by 57 percent of Republican voters in Florida, about double his nearest rival, short-term Senate-appointee George LeMieux. Others in the race were far back.

But the survey also found that voters familiar with the other candidates, still liked Mack best. 

“Name recognition is certainly an important part of the equation, but even when you account for that Mack’s well ahead,” PPP concluded. “And he has strong numbers across the ideological lines of the GOP, getting 44 percent with ‘very conservative’ voters, 43 percent with ’somewhat conservative’ ones, and 32 percent with moderates.”

Mack slaps Nelson as one of Obama’s ‘lockstep liberals’

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Tarring Democratic opponent Bill Nelson as one of President Obama’s “lockstep liberals”, Republican U.S. Rep. Connie Mack said Tuesday that Floridians are looking for a change in the U.S. Senate.

“It’s pretty clear to me that this country, our country, is moving in the wrong directions,” Mack said in a conference call with reporters from his Fort Myers hometown.

Mack made his candidacy official Monday night in an appearance on Sean Hannity’s Fox-TV show. Mack, first elected to Congress in 2004, is the fifth Republican in the race to unseat Nelson, who is seeking his third term.

Mack is looking to win the same seat held by his father and namesake, former Republican U.S. Sen. Connie Mack. His dad defeated Democrat Buddy MacKay in 1988 after taunting him with the phrase, “Hey Buddy, you’re liberal.” And on Tuesday, the political apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

“Bill Nelson has become one of Barack Obama’s leading guys in the United States Senate,” Mack said, deriding his Democratic rival for supporting the president’s push on health care, stimulus spending, and energy cap-and-trade legislation.

Nelson is among the “lockstep liberals in Washington” the president depends on to advance his agenda, Mack said. The Republican contender, however, disputed that he, like his father, is looking to win by demonizing liberals.

“It’s not an attempt to demonize,” Mack said. “It’s to point out the differences.”

When those close to Mack confirmed a few weeks ago that he was planning to enter the race, the congressman immediately became the favorite, according to polls.

 A Quinnipiac University survey earlier this month showed Mack with a formidable lead over the four Republicans already in the race. A Rasmussen Reports poll also showed Mack could be trouble for Nelson, with the congressman favored by 43 percent of voters to 39 percent for the Democrat. The survey of 500 likely voters had a margin-of-error of plus-or-minus 4.5 percent.

Mack topping Nelson in latest poll

Friday, November 18th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Republican Connie Mack is shaping up as big trouble — not only for his fellow GOP contenders for the U.S. Senate nomination, but two-term Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson, a poll shows Friday.

Mack, a Cape Coral congressman, is the favorite of 43 percent of Florida voters, to 39 percent for Nelson, according to the survey of 500 likely voters conducted Thursday by Rasmussen Reports. The poll has a margin-of-error of plus-or-minus 4.5 percent.

The survey also shows Nelson holding comfortable leads over other Republican contenders, former U.S. Senate-appointee George LeMieux and former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner. A Quinnipiac University poll released last week showed Mack holding a formidable lead over the four GOP candidates already in the U.S. Senate race.

Mack’s father, who shares the same name, represented Florida in the U.S. Senate from 1989 to his retirement in 2001, when he was succeeded by Nelson.

Game-changer: late entrant Mack leads GOP Senate field, nearly ties Democratic Sen. Nelson

Friday, November 11th, 2011 by George Bennett

Mack: Zero to frontrunner in two weeks

U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Cape Coral, has become the instant frontrunner in the GOP Senate primary and runs virtually even with Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, a new Quinnipiac University poll says.

“The entrance of Congressman Connie Mack into the Senate race changes what had been shaping up as an easy reelection for Sen. Bill Nelson into a tough fight that the incumbent could lose,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “The fact that Mack is essentially tied with Nelson, who has been a statewide political figure for two decades, should set off warning bells at Democratic headquarters.”

Mack, whose office announced he would enter the race Oct. 26, gets 32 percent of GOP primary support in a poll taken Oct. 31 to Nov. 7. Placing a distant second is former appointed Sen. George LeMieux at 9 percent, followed by businessman Mike McCalister at 6 percent and 2 percent apiece for former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner and former restaurant CEO Craig Miller.


Rooney ‘probably’ leaning toward Mack in GOP Senate primary

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011 by George Bennett


U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta, who worked as a Capitol Hill staffer for former Sen. Connie Mack III in the 1990s, says he’s leaning toward supporting late-entering U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV, R-Cape Coral, in the 2012 GOP Senate primary.

“Having worked for Connie’s dad, having worked with Connie closely, I’d probably be leaning heavily toward Connie at this point. But let him get in the race and let him get his feet wet first,” Rooney said today.

Rooney, who once considered entering the 2006 GOP Senate primary against a weak Katherine Harris, said he was also asked about entering the 2012 contest because of underwhelming polling numbers by GOP candidates George LeMieux, Adam Hasner, Mike McCalister and Craig Miller. Rooney, who has three young children, said he wasn’t willing to take on the statewide fundraising and campaigning demands associated with a Senate run.

McCalister, Miller ready to turn back the political clock

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011 by John Kennedy

A pair of Republican U.S. Senate candidates showcased their stump speeches Wednesday at the Associated Press’ annual planning session at the state Capitol, with both pledging to shrink government and effectively turn back the political clock.

Craig Miller, a former restaurant executive, said it was time to end Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s four decades as an elected official, saying “I think 40 years is enough.”

He also dismissed the entry of U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers, into the race, saying it only added “one more career politician,” to a lineup that already includes former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, short-term Senate appointee George Lemieux, and tea party adherent Mike McCalister.

“I am the only true business person in the race,” Miller said.

McCalister also had a turn at the microphone, promising less regulation and “lower taxes for everyone.”

“We’ve got to get government out of the way. And we’re going to have to create a more business friendly economy,” McCalister said.

McCalister said he’d reduce federal spending by revamping Social Security and Medicare for future generations, and warned against an enduring threat of Communism. Miller derided the nation’s minimum wage, saying it hurt businesses and restrains hiring, fondly recalling working for $1-an-hour at age 13.

Mack’s entry into the race last month underscores the fluidity of the GOP contest. Polls show most Republican voters are undecided. None of the candidates have emerged as a frontrunner, and fund-raising remains modest.

Miller said that gives him a chance.

“The person that surfaces from the primary is the person with the right message, no matter where they come from,” Miller said.

LeMieux calls Mack an earmarker; Hasner camp calls him ‘another Washington incumbent’

Thursday, October 27th, 2011 by George Bennett

Some elbows are already being directed at U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Cape Coral, as he gets ready to enter the crowded 2012 Republican Senate primary.

Former appointed U.S. Sen. George LeMieux welcomed Mack as “a friend,” but also slammed Mack for supporting earmarks and congressional pay raises.

Former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner‘s communications director Douglass Mayer called four-term House member Mack “another Washington incumbent.”

After announcing in March he wouldn’t run, Mack has decided to enter the Republican primary against LeMieux, Hasner and businessmen Craig Miller and Mike McCalister. the four declared GOP candidates have been plagued by underwhelming poll numbers and fundraising as they vie to challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in 2012.

Read statements from LeMieux, the Hasner campaign and McCalister after the jump….


On second thought, Connie Mack eyes U.S. Senate run

Thursday, October 27th, 2011 by George Bennett


After ruling out a Senate run in March, U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Cape Coral, appears to have had a change of heart.

With none of the Republican candidates showing impressive polling or fundraising numbers, a Mack aide told The St. Petersburg Times late Wednesday that the congressman would enter the race.

Republicans are trying to field a candidate to challenge two-term Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Mack, the son of a former Senator and great-grandson of a Hall of Fame baseball legend with the same name, would bring a well-known name and presumed fundraising connections to the race. But Mack has occasionally run afoul of the GOP’s conservative base, most notably in opposing an Arizona-style crackdown on illegal immigrants.

Mack cited family concerns in passing up the Senate race in March, then endorsed state Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, in the primary. But Haridopolos dropped out during the summer.

Former appointed Sen. George LeMieux, former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner and businessmen Craig Miller and Mike McCalister have spent months on the campaign trail, but none has built a strong following in the polls.

Reports this month showed all of the Republicans far behind Nelson in fundraising. Nelson raised $2 million in the last quarter and has about $7.5 million in his campaign account.

LeMieux’s fundraising plunged from $951,558 in the second quarter to $402,916 in the third quarter. He has about $1 million in the bank. Hasner raised $535,000 in the last quarter and has $786,000 on hand.

McCalister raised $71,000 in 3rd quarter for Senate race

Monday, October 17th, 2011 by George Bennett


Plant City businessman Mike McCalister raised about $71,000 during the third quarter for his Republican U.S. Senate bid, his campaign said today. That places McCalister — who served 33 years in the Army National Guard, Army Reserves and active duty and retired with the rank of colonel — financially far behind his three main GOP primary rivals.

Federal Election Commission reports were due Saturday but have not yet been posted on the FEC site.

Former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner raised $535,000 in the quarter. Former appointed Sen. George LeMieux collected $402,916 and former Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse CEO Craig Miller raised $226,000.

McCalister’s total came from nearly 2,000 donors, consultant Buzz Jacobs said.

The GOP candidates together raised less than incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who raised nearly $2 million in the quarter.

Hasner tops LeMieux in 3rd quarter Senate GOP money chase

Friday, October 14th, 2011 by George Bennett

Former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner of Boca Raton raised more campaign cash in the third quarter than GOP Senate primary rival George LeMieux — but neither one comes close to incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Hasner raised $535,000 between July 1 and Sept. 30 and has $786,000 in cash on hand, his campaign said this evening. LeMieux, a former appointed Senator, raised $402,916 in the quarter and has a little more than $1 million in the bank.

Nelson, seeking a third term next year, said earlier this week that he raised nearly $2 million in the last quarter and has about $7.5 million in cash on hand.

A third Republican candidate, former Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse CEO Craig Miller, tonight announced he raised $226,000 in the quarter and has $145,000 cash on hand.

Also seeking the GOP nomination is Plant City businessman Mike McCalister, who has not yet announced his third-quarter fundraising totals. Federal Election Commission reports are due Saturday.

Hasner’s latest $535,000 haul compares to $565,439 he raised in the second quarter.

LeMieux’s third-quarter total is less than half the $951,558 he raised in the previous quarter.

Hasner and LeMieux together raised less than half the $1.9 million that U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Plantation, raised in the third quarter for his House reelection bid.

West’s fundraising prowess led some Republicans to urge him to enter the Senate race, but West turned down the idea during the summer.

LeMieux turns to FDR for Senate campaign “freedoms”

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Republican U.S. Senate candidate George LeMieux rolled out a plan to fix the nation’s economy Wednesday — dubbing it his ‘four freedoms plan.”

The historic roots of the “four freedoms” concept goes back to Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt, who pledged to defend the constitution’s guaranteed freedoms of speech and worship, and freedom from fear and want.

LeMieux, engulfed in a tough, four-way GOP primary, is adding to the list the freedom to work, pursue the American dream, and safeguard freedom from foreign dependence and debt. Some of his proposals mirror those aired by Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann and others in the Republican presidential field.

“After faith and family, the most important thing a person can have is a job,” LeMieux said.

LeMieux’s approach would reduce federal spending to 2007 levels, which he said could help balance the budget within two years.

 He would slash the corporate tax rate by almost one-third, to 25 percent, while repealing the federal health care overhaul pushed by President Obama and tough federal banking regulations that he said are stifling lending.

LeMieux also said his deficit-reduction plan will take on Social Security and Medicare.

 Among the changes he would advance: gradually raising to age 69 the retirement age for those now under age 55 and impose so-called means testing that would reduce Social Security payments to wealthier retirees.

“We are losing jobs today because of our debt,” LeMieux said.

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