The US Senate is not a place for legislative lightweights, but the Florida Republicans like nominating those whose record of achievement are questionable at best. Marco Rubio is a right-wing ideologue but a capable and intellectual leader. However, Katherine Harris and Mel Martinez were the very definition of lightweights. But even they pale in comparison to Congressman Connie Mack IV.
Mack’s record is that of an empty suit. The brat that was characterized in mail pieces against him in his very first State House campaign (which I had a role in) has proven to be his legacy as a legislator. The son of one of Florida’s most popular Republicans in the post Civil Rights era, the younger Mack has proven to be brash and ineffective as a leader. Despite serving twelve years in a legislative body, Mack has almost no accomplishments other than token pieces of legislation. He has achieved the reputation of an intellectually weak follower.
Mack has used his powerful name to chase out several potentially strong Republican candidates in both his first State House race and his first Congressional race. He has achieved a trifecta with his ability to almost clear the primary field for himself for US Senate. But unlike those previous races, the General Election will be an uphill struggle with Bill Nelson, a four time statewide winner sitting as the incumbent Democrat. The GOP, on the other hand, has no shortage of potentially attractive statewide candidates, but none of them have the name ID or the cash to take on Mack.
The fact that Mack is taking on the last elected Democrat from the Bill Gunter line of “traditional institutional Democrats” as we call them on this website gives the incumbent an advantage to win what are defined as “swing” (but are actually Republican leaning) voters. But Nelson’s voting record has drifted leftward through the years to the point where his recent scores from leading liberal interest groups are virtually indistinguishable from most national Democrats.
The latest poll from Rasmussen Reports, a Republican-leaning polling firm, is bad news for the Congressman. Mack trails Nelson by double digits in a hypothetical general election match-up even while Mitt Romney is neck and neck with President Obama in the same poll. In other words, many GOP-leaning voters have already checked out on Mack. Wisely the GOP realized that even by their established low standard for Senatorial nominees Mack is a dud. Thus, an effort was undertaken to recruit the more attractive Jeff Atwater into the race. But Atwater’s ultimate decision to reject the overtures have left the Republicans scrambling.
The failure of the GOP to recruit a top-tier challenger for Mack in the primary and the inability of George LeMeuix to fully escape Charlie Crist’s shadow lead to an inevitable Nelson victory. This certainly puts the Republicans in a tougher position nationally to regain the Senate. While the Democrats are defending far more vulnerable seats and a tenuous 53-47 majority, DSCC resources can now be diverted from the expensive state of Florida where you must compete in multiple costly media markets to defend Democratic-held seats in vulnerable places such as Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Virginia, while having more free cash to chase GOP held seats in Nevada and Massachusetts.