Connie Mack in Bonita Springs: "We haven't lost the war."
BONITA SPRINGS -- Republican Rep. Connie Mack IV told supporters here not to mourn his failed Senate bid but to remain confident Mitt Romney will win the presidential election.
"I believe Mitt Romney is going to pull this out tonight and be the next president," Mack said, to cheers. "And when he does, there will be a new day in America where will move forward to make sure that American dream is bright for the next generations to come.
The Associated Press called the U.S. Senate race about as soon as possible, just after 8 p.m. Mack addressed about 100 relatives, friends and supporters gathered inside a Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort banquet hall about an hour and a half later. He told them he already congratulated Sen. Bill Nelson on his decisive victory.
"We may have lost the battle, but we haven't lost the war," Mack said in eight-minute remarks. "We will continue to fight for those things that are important, those things that matter, those things that make America grow and move forward."
Mack's father, former Sen. Connie Mack III, spoke before him, saying, "We could not be more proud of our son tonight."
Mack relaxed for much of Election Day, stopping by a field office to thank volunteers and hanging out with his young daughter and son, a spokesman said. He had already cast his vote a week early in Fort Myers, where he owns a condominium.
Noticeably absent was Mack's wife, California Rep. Mary Bono Mack, whose reelection was also in the air.
The crowd noshed on finger foods and ordered beer and wine from a bar as they watched results appear on a big screen playing Fox News. They chit-chatted as Nelson gave his victory speech, shown on a smaller TV with the volume down.
Jim Rossi, 70, of Bonita Springs, was one of the few who watched Nelson speak.
"I'm a pragmatist," Rossi said. "If the other guy wins, the other guy wins."
Jean Goetz, 56, a resident of North Fort Myers who has voted Republican since moving to Florida 10 years ago, wanted Mack to win not so much because of his record, but because she wanted Romney to have an ally in the Senate.
"I'm not going to get all hot and bothered about it," Goetz said. "I'm just going to hope for the best."
Some supporters thought Nelson succeeded in part because of his early TV ads that aimed to paint Mack as an irresponsible bar brawler.
"Nelson hasn't done anything," said Lydia Stephens, 49, a Naples Republican. "We need some new blood in there."
Here are excerpts from Mack's speech:
Let me just say this: I spoke to Sen. Nelson not too long ago and congratulated him on winning the race, and I am sure that Sen. Nelson knows that when he gets back to Washington that he's going to have to work hard to live up to the standards that he set forth to the people of the state of Florida. I am sure that he will do that.
It’s with some sadness tonight that unfortunately that we didn’t win. But I’ll tell you this, I am very proud of the campaign that we ran. I decided early on in this race that I wanted this to be about good things, about positive things, and about the future of America. About the things that you would want to teach your children as I want to teach my children. That it’s about the American dream, it’s about freedom, it’s about freedom, it’s about liberty. And it’s doing it in a way that respects everyone but also with passion and grace. And I feel like we have accomplished that. As you can tell, standing behind me and some on the sides here, I’ve got a great support group. I’ve got a great family, a lot of great friends. ...
This is not a sad moment, my friends. This is an inspiring moment. This is about what America is. We went through the battle of the campaign. We fought hard with them, we didn’t win. But we continue to fight for our ideals and beliefs that all of us believe in – that America is best and strong when we stand up for our values and our principles and for our freedom. That’s what we’ve done. ...
We may have lost the battle, but we haven't lost the war. We will continue to fight for those things that are important, those things that matter, those things that make America grow and move forward. We will continue with passion and grace to define the issues, to talk about what it is that we believe in. This is not an ending, this is just a beginning. ...
I believe Mitt Romney is going to pull this out tonight and be the next president. And when he does, there will be a new day in America where will move forward to make sure that American dream is bright for the next generations to come.
Photo by Katie Sanders.