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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

The murky state of Florida's U.S. Senate race



Mike Haridopolos from the Republican U.S. Senate primary race should have brought clarity to the contest.

Instead the picture is muddier than ever.

Former Sen. George LeMieux, now the best-funded candidate, is suddenly aggressively attacking former state Rep. Adam Hasner as a phony conservative with a record of voting for tax and spending increases.

Hasner has started landing major GOP establishment support, but shows little sign of momentum among rank-and-file voters.

And a Quinnipiac poll last week found more than half the voters are undecided, but the front-runner is Mike McCalister, an obscure candidate most veterans of Florida politics wrote off as barely credible.

Meanwhile, speculation about another candidate jumping in, perhaps a very wealthy one, is rampant among Republican strategists in Florida.

"I don't think the field is set," said Republican consultant Apryl Marie Fogel, echoing others. "It is a wide-open field, and clearly the candidates that are in the race aren't exciting anyone. There was some expectation that Hasner was going to pick up steam — he's gotten a lot of good press, he's done all the right things — but he's clearly not resonating (with conservatives) the way Marco Rubio did."

In the past few weeks though, Hasner has lined up some of the most elite GOP money-raisers in Florida, including some of the main financial backers of former Gov. Jeb Bush and Rubio. Consider the list: former Ambassadors Norman Braman of Miami, Al Hoffman of North Palm Beach, Earle Mack of Palm Beach, John Rood of Jacksonville and Ned Siegel of Boca Raton. St. Petersburg developer Brent Sembler, who had been helping Haridopolos, is also with Hasner.

"If the field is going to expand it needs to expand in the next 60 days because groups and important individuals are begining to make a pick. After 60 days it may be too late, unless it's a self-funder," said American Conservative Union president and former state GOP chairman Al Cardenas.

Story here

[Last modified: Sunday, August 7, 2011 1:28am]


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