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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

NYT looks at 'Charlie Sheen of Fla politics' vs. perpetually squinting inocuous 'astronaut' Senate race



The New York Times' Mark Leibovitch weighs in on Florida's strangely low-key U.S. Senate race:

...A big reason this unpleasantness affixes so readily to Mr. Mack is that his political opponents have made certain of it. George LeMieux, Mr. Mack’s opponent in the Republican primary, called him the “Charlie Sheen of Florida politics.” And Mr. Nelson’s campaign has expended zillions of dollars and words “educating” voters on these matters and taking particular glee in reminding everyone, for example, that Mr. Mack used to work as “a promoter for Hooters.” (In fact, Mr. Mack once worked as a marketing executive for a firm that owned several of the, uh, owl-themed establishments.)

There was also a 1992 bar fight with the professional baseball player Ron Gant in an Atlanta bar called Calico Jack’s. “My biggest regret about that fight with Ron Gant is that I lost,” Mr. Mack said, citing the broken ankle he suffered.

Mr. Nelson, 70, a onetime astronaut, might be among the more innocuous members of the United States Senate and someone whose personality is perhaps better suited to his previous job as the state’s treasurer and insurance commissioner. It seems his most crucial political talent has been for drawing terribly flawed opponents.

He sailed to re-election in 2006 over the Republican Katherine Harris, a member of Congress at the time who is best known as the state’s mascara-coated secretary of state during the Bush v. Gore recount of 2000. Next up is this year’s opponent, Mr. Mack, who despite his golden lineage comes freighted with more baggage than a Miami cruise ship.

Even so, the Florida Senate race had the makings of a classic: vulnerable opponent in a big, colorful swing state opposed by a well-backed congressman with instant name recognition.

Mr. Mack’s checkered past made things potentially even more interesting, and many political wiseguys expected Florida’s to be one of the country’s most fascinating Senate contests, up there with Scott Brown versus Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, George Allen versus Tim Kaine in Virginia and Claire McCaskill versus Todd Akin in Missouri.

As it has turned out, Mr. Nelson has been ahead in the polls by about 8 to 10 points for months, although the spread appears to have closed of late (down to 5.5 percent according to averages compiled by RealClearPolitics from Oct. 8 to 18). Though the pair engaged in a spirited and nasty debate on Oct. 17, Mr. Nelson’s basic strategy has been to attack Mr. Mack, refuse more face-to-face encounters with him and basically hope no one notices that there is a Senate campaign going on here (through a spokesman, he declined repeated requests for even a brief interview).

And yet the Florida campaign has also, somehow, made for an oddly fascinating spectacle.

Full story here

[Last modified: Sunday, October 28, 2012 11:16pm]


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