Republican U.S. Senate candidate Connie Mack made his way through a crush of garnet-garbed tailgaters Saturday night at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, ending the opening day of a six-day bus tour at the Florida State-Clemson football game.
Also posing for pictures and shaking hands at the stadium was Josh Romney, one of Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney’s five sons. ‘Noles for Romney-Ryan’ bumper stickers were being distributed by supporters.
Earlier Saturday, Mack had campaigned in Gainesville, working the crowd outside the Florida-Kentucky game in the afternoon. But his race with Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson was never far from his mind.
“It looks good,” Mack said about his chances, despite polls showing him well behind the two-term incumbent. Macksaid he is banking on undecided voters — who number in the 10 percent range in most polls — as his key to a come-from-behind win.
“Polls we’ve done are better, much better,” Mack said. “But the undecideds also are trending Republican, and that’s good.”
Still, Mack also has seen his popularity ratings tank in various surveys. The six-day bus tour, which heads Sunday to Jacksonville, may help soften the image Nelson TV spots have enhanced, casting Mack as a spoiled senator’s son. Mack’s father held the same seat for two terms from 1989-2001.
“It all helps,” said
Mack, who will campaign Sunday with David Keene, president of the National Rifle Association.
Mack also took issue with Nelson for so far refusing to take part in a CNN debate planned for Oct. 30 and another proposed for Oct. 23 from the University of Florida. The rival campaigns have agreed on only one debate, an Oct. 17 Leadership Florida-Florida Press Association sitdown scheduled for Davie.
“We’re saying come debate us anywhere, anytime. I’m sure he’s going `Ahh, I’ve got a lot of money in the bank and some of the public polling have us up and we don’t want to make a mistake,” Mack said. “I think the people of Florida are saying, ‘we want to know what the two candidates are all about.’”
Mack, who refused to debate his Republican rivals before the Aug. 14 primary, drew a distinction with his approach. “Our closest opponent was 35 points behind us….we’re in a much more competitive race than we had in the primary.”