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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Connie Mack: GOP rivals are losers against Nelson



conniemack.jpgU.S. Rep. Connie Mack today dismissed his Republican U.S. Senate primary rivals as too weak to defeat incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson.

"I think the polls show clearly that they don't have the opportunity to beat Sen. Nelson. I do have that opportunity," a bullish Mack told reporters this morning after making his candidacy official Monday night on The Sean Hannity Show.

Polls confirm Mack has a major asset in his name. His father is former Sen. Connie Mack III, and his great grandfather is the former baseball legend. Mack acknowledged that was a factor but insisted Floridians know his work as a former state legislator and four-term congressman.

Mack took another swipe at rivals -- chiefly Adam Hasner and George LeMieux -- when asked if he had entered the race too late. "Although the other candidates have been in the race for a year or so, they haven't really been able to accomplish much," he said.

Like the others, Mack's gameplan is to portray, repeatedly, Nelson as a liberal in "lockstep" with President Obama. "The only thing I have a problem with is when you have someone like Sen. Nelson who's a liberal and he votes that way in Washington, D.C., and comes back to Florida and tries to paint himself as a moderate."

While he now holds the upper hand in the primary, Mack has vulnerabilities. On the call, he was asked about his criticism of Arizona's tough immigration law, his support for earmarks, among other issues.

Immigration: "I thought the Arizona law went too far.  And in fact the legislature in Arizona agreed and made changes. Now they didn’t go far enough for me, but they recognized they were on shaky ground. I think what we need to do is be tough on border security, that we need to have the E-Verify as a national system, that we need to be tough on illegal immigrants but at the same time not destroy the freedoms of some Americans that may look different than you and me."

Earmarks: "In all of those cases I was fighting and winning for Florida ...  When you look at the things that I supported, whether it was the widening of I-75 or others, those were important projects that needed to happen in the state of Florida." He quickly noted that he supported earmark reforms and the ban, now in effect.

Hasner campaign reaction to yesterday's announcement:

"Congressman Mack's record of supporting wasteful Washington spending, billions in earmark spending, and taxpayer-funded embryonic stem cell research stands in stark contrast with what Florida Republicans are looking for in their next United States Senator. If the last decade has shown us anything, it's that the problems in Washington can't be fixed by the same establishment politicians who helped create them in the first place."

And today's conference call: "With all due respect to Congressman Mack, his statement today perfectly illustrates the major disconnect between Washington politicians in both parties and the people they are supposed to be representing. Voters aren't looking for another career politician who follows polls and is running for higher office just because he can win, or because it is easy. They are looking for the candidates who can be trusted to do the hard things, take the tough votes, and stand up to the Washington insiders who are bankrupting our country. In this race, only Adam Hasner has proven that he will consistently support limited-government principles and fight against Democrats and the Republicans who act like them."

LeMieux's campaign sent around a biting Palm Beach Post column about Mack.

[Last modified: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 2:34pm]


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