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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida Insider Poll: Half say it's not too late for another Sen candidate



When we started to conduct another Florida Insider Poll Monday to take stock of the U.S. Senate race, we failed to anticipate that news would overtake us. The vast majority of the nearly 100 participants responded to the survey before Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced that he is seriously looking at jumping into the Republican primary - a development that obviously could shake up the race dramatically.

Still, the survey of Florida's savviest politicos - fundraisers, lobbyists, campaign consultants, political scientists - had some striking results: Even without Atwater's name in the mix of possible contenders, a slight majority - 52 percent - said it's not too late for another candidate to get in the race and mount a credible campaign.

Connie Mack was the overwhelming favorite of the 95 Insider participaing, with nearly 80 percent predicting he would win the nomination over George LeMieux and Mike McCalister. Fifty one percent said Mack would be the strongest general election candidate against Bill Nelson, 44 percent said LeMieux and one person said McCalister.

Bill Nelson is sitting pretty. More than three out of four Insiders - including nearly two thirds of the Republicans - expect Nelson to win re-election. But that doesn't mean the national GOP will write off the race. Sixty three percent of the Insiders expect the national party will invest significantly in the senate race.

Will Republicans will win control of the U.S. Senate in November? Our insiders were divided with 52 percent saying no.

This week's Insiders included 37 Democrats, 50 Republicans, and eight independents. They are: Dave Aronberg, Alex Heckler, Bill McBride, Alberto Martinez, Dylan Sumner, Ana Navarro, Andrew Gillum, Bernie Campbell, Jim Rimes, Kristy Campbell, Eric Jotkoff, Jamie Wilson, Dave Karvelas, Jeffrey Garcia, Tre Evers, Paul Bradshaw, Tom Eldon, Robin Rorapaugh, Andy Ford, Screven Watson, Christian Ulvert, Vincent Harris, Robert Coker, Kirk Pepper, Tyler Hudson, Monica Russo, Gus Corbella, Scott Peelen, Henry Kelley, Ben Pollara, Nancy Watkins, Roger Stone, Rick Wilson, Husein Cumber, April Marie Fogel, Alex Patton, Steve Schale, Tom Tillison, Tim Baker, Stephen Bittel, Susie Wiles, Meredith O'Rourke, Ashley Walker, Jill Chamberlin, Darryl Paulson, Cory Tilley, Brett Doster, Brian Hughes, Joy-Ann Reid, Marty Fiorentino, John Morgan, Al Cardenas, Frank Tsamoutales, Stephanie Kunkel, Chris Ingram, Allan Bense, Lucy Morgan, Nancy McGowan, Dan Gelber, Carlos Curbelo, Andrew Weinstein, Abel Harding, Donald Hinkle, Jamie Miller, Kirk Wagar, Greg Turbeville, Scott Arceneaux, Alia Faraj, Susan MacManus, Brian Seitchik, Mike Hamby, Ellen Freidin, Rich Heffley, Aubrey Jewett, Sarag Rumpf, Marc Reichelderfer, Kirk Fordham, Bud Shorstein, Steve Geller, Adam Goodman, David Rancourt, Alex Burgos, John Dowless, Justin Day, Bridget Nocco, Sally Bradshaw, David Custin, Alex Sink, Joe Perry, Peter Schorsch, Greg Truax, James Harris, Shannon Gravitte, Derek Newton, Kathy Mears.

Some of the comments:

A Democrat: Republicans will not invest serious dollars in Florida unless they think they can win. Nelson will outperform Obama by about 5 points. Unless the Republicans think they beat Obama by at least 3 or 4 points, they'll invest the money elsewhere. I also think they're less likely to invest with Mack as the nominee because of his exploitable flaws."

A Republican: "I'm not sure Connie Mack is disciplined enough of a campaigner to  win either the nomination nor the general election. He has not done well with grassroots republicans and now it seems he hasnt done well with donors either. His team doesn't have a real good
track record in statewide elections either. Nelson has had a career 49 percent approval rating, and i think he will track within just a few points agead of Obama (mostly due to his strength in North Florida vs. Obama's weakness there).
It is possible that Nelson wins a close election and Obama loses a close election but I think it is more likely that Floridians reject them both."

A Republican: "The chickens have come home to roost for George, but Connie Mack needs to get out of Washington, out of his bubble and to do as his father did in 1988 and hit the road, work the REC's and show some humility. Also, Mack's press and media operation is a disaster. Monkey's on crack wasn't effective: it was ludicrous. Show some stature, pick the right issues and stop acting like people owe you something."

A Democrat: "Credible and mainstream Republicans have lost control of their primary. Unlike the last off-year election, the November electorate will bear no similarity to Republican primary voters."

A Republican: "Between the 3 George would be the strongest. Connie Mack IV has been consistently rejected by grassroot Republicans as having too much baggage and not substantive on policy. McCailster has no path and is not a serious candidiate, and George though qualifed, is having trouble rallying the base because of his association with Charlie Crist, and concerns about his involvement with Jim Greer and Greer's upcoming trial. Still hoping for a conservative who can rally the base and beat Bill Nelson. Nelson is vulnerable because he suppports an unpopular President who has no energy policy, and gas has tripled in price since Obama took office..."

A Republican: "I would not be surprised to see another Rick Scott type get in this race."

A Republican: "It is too late for another candidate to "mount a credible campaign" unless it was someone with the fundraising and grass roots organization as a Jeb Bush or Mike Huckabee (Florida resident), just to name two."

A Republican: "Too early to tell whether gop will invest. it needs to stay close and c mack needs to raise another 2-3mm on his own before it's probable. race will be very close. may  well depend on outcome of presidential race (as in 2004 martinez-castor) and whether c
mack can raise close to 10mm."

A Republican: "Florida offers two opportunities for Republicans: either win a Senate seat or bleed the Dems defending it. Mack is probably best choice in a weak Republican field, but it is not too late for a late entry similar to Martinez in 2004."

A Republican: "Nelson is undoubtedly the luckiest politician in Florida. In his first Senate race he faces Bill McCollum, the most bland candidate in America. Six years later comes Katherine Harris, the most incompetent politician in the country. This year Nelson will face a more competent candidate who will be a more aggressive campaigner. In addition, I think the Republican nominee will benefit from a presidential race that will more likely help Republican candidates in Florida."

A Republican: "As the race stands today, I believe Connie Mack will prevail in the Republican primary and then be eviscerated by Bill Nelson in the general due to his past indiscretions. The best Mack can count on is that most voters will still believe they're voting for his father, come November."

A Democrat: "LeMieux causes Nelson the biggest problems, and Hasner would have been formidable, and probably the nominee if Mack hadn't gotten in. Mack just doesn't pass the Senatorial smell test. Guys who work at Hooters and get beaten up by professional baseball players go to the US House, not the Senate. In the end, Florida is expensive. Mack will emerge from a primary broke, and Nelson will probably have 12-13 million in the bank. At this point, Senate GOP will have to decide between playing here, or helping in several cheaper states. I believe they will choose the latter. Another candidate can get in, but unless their name is Jeb Bush or someone really wealthy, you are looking at the GOP field."

A Republican: "It is not too late for another credible candidate for the US Senate. For example, if Jeb Bush decided to do it. However, we know that is not likely. While not too late, the window is closing very rapidly. The candidate would have to be a superstar and be able to self fund the startup phase of the campaign. Too bad Tim Tebow is in New York and currently unavailable."

A Republican: "If there was a better Republican primary candidate out there I think he/she would have come forward after Haridopolos. Nelson has to be celebrating but I think it's too early to count his chickens. Just as soft & C4 money poured in for House races in 10 (Grayson, Boyd, Klein & Kosmas) all of that will now flow in for the US Senate race..."

A Republican: "Connie is my guy, but he remains too petulant, clearly NOT his daddy's son. His level of immaturity on the stup is evident. He refuses to say it's time to end the "across the aisle" rancor. This hate of the other team is ruinous; Barack O'Bama promised a higher standard after Gabby Giffords, what a joke. He's the worst offender!! Connie can still win this thing; Senator Bill is extremely ineffective, but he can't do it by zealotry. New ideas, firm resolve, matched with a dose of his father's kindness will make him our next senator!"

A Republican: "So far, I have not noticed a "Republican surge" against the Obama administration and congressional candidates. That may change now that Romney has solidified his grasp on the nomination and now that voters are starting to focus more. Nelson is an incredibly vulnerable candidate, but has a big warchest of contributions to fight back with."

A Democrat: "Having less than stellar candidates is an affliction that is shared across party lines."

A Republican: "The national GOP will invest up front and see how it moves the needle. if they believe they can win they will pour money into Florida....has the side benefit of helping the Presidential as well."

A Democrat: "While Connie Mack has shown strong name ID, he has not demonstrated the fortitude to mount a strategic and well-thought out campaign against Bill Nelson. In the end, Bill Nelson will have the resources to go toe-to-toe against Mack and the SuperPACs that
take aim against Nelson. Bill Nelson's safe, middle of the road approach in the US Senate will prove to be his best tool against Mack."

A Republican: "The NRSC always gives the max to the Florida candidate, which is around $2mil, so the question isn't "will the National GOP invest significantly" --- the question is will the new Superpacs and other groups invest significantly to defeat Nelson - and the answer to that is yes. National superpacs and business groups view this election as critical to stopping Obama and his antibusiness agenda."

Democrat: "Is it too late for another candidate to mount a credible campaign?: - Can't be too late since it isn't like there is a credible candidate in the race now. With LeMieux being mired in the Greer stuff and Mack being so busy attacking the press in an overly sensitive way to avoiding any bar fight references, right now anyone would be better. If the GOP has someone that has any kind of ability to put in some money to seed their campaign, now is the time for that person to get in."

Republican: "George LeMieux is unprincipled and untrustworthy, and Connie Mack's campaign is running the Bill McCollum 3.0 operating system. Neither of them can beat Bill Nelson, and that's saying a lot considering Nelson's weakness and vulnerability. This race is screaming for a well-funded conservative to make a late entry and give Republicans a fighting chance."

Republican: "It's too late for an ordinary mortal to get in race but not too late for someone w/a bucket of their own money (a la Rick Scott) or for someone w/considerable statewide name ID and ability to raise $ quickly. Rick Scott proves that when you have weak frontrunner even a weird bald guy w/baggage but lots of $, can come in late and walk away w/someone else's trophy."

[Last modified: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 12:17pm]


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