The limited intellectual capacity of Connie Mack IV has not stopped Florida’s US Senate race from becoming a tight affair. The big question to answer is the recent tightening of the race a natural outgrowth of Republican base voting, or is Bill Nelson actually slipping with the electorate.
The constant barrage of superpac funded ads against Nelson may have taken its toll especially in Republican base areas of northern Florida. Nelson’s poll numbers have been stagnant thanks to barrage of negative ads, while undecided voters have cut towards the Republican challenger. Mack’s continued negative campaign has worked to a large extent, with fewer ticket splitters showing up in current polling than previously. However, with Governor Romney strongly favored to win Florida, Mack needs to eliminate the remaining ticket splitters. This will be difficult in a final week, where the most undecideds have already cut one way or another and because the well funded negative campaign against Nelson has in all likelihood hit a point of diminishing returns.
Mack’s well orchestrated campaign of fear and demagoguery has had some success with a disengaged electorate, but has failed to raise Nelson’s negatives among voters previously committed in the race. In many Florida statewide races of the past, we have seen tightening one to two weeks before the election which then turn into blowouts election night. This pattern held true with the 1990 and 1998 Governor’s race as well as the 1986 and 2006 US Senate races.
The national media focus and the need for the GOP to “expand the map” in order to capture a majority in the US Senate has led to an unprecedented amount of third party money to flow behind Mack. Additionally, these same Republican aligned groups have begun spending heavily in Missouri as Todd Akin, two months ago a GOP pariah is now seen as a potential savior for the party’s dwindling hopes of capturing the Senate.
Heavy potential turnout in southwest Florida will boost Mack as will the growing leakage of Democratic votes in southeast Florida. In Central Florida Nelson remains strong, running in some areas of the I-4 corridor double-digits ahead of President Obama. It is here, in the most important part of the state where Nelson appears to have a firewall that could well save him and the Democratic controlled US Senate.
Mack’s chances for victory rest largely on continued Republican hammering of Nelson, and a decisive win by Romney in the state. Both scenarios are possible but in combination they are unlikely. Nonetheless, this campaign has become worth watching.