Sen. Bill Nelson's decision to cast a deciding vote for raising taxes on the wealthy won't do much to fix the budget deficit, but it could help the campaign coffers of his Republican rival.
Less than a day after the 51-48 Senate vote, Republican Rep. Connie Mack's campaign sent out a Thursday fundraising email pointing out that the Democrat had said he didn't want to raise taxes on those earning more than $250,000.
Nelson said he preferred to eliminate the Bush-era tax cuts on the wealthy who earn $1 million or more.
"For weeks Bill Nelson has told Floridians he didn't support the president's plan. But then he cast the deciding vote for it," Mack campaign manager Jeff Cohen wrote.
"It's the same old Bill Nelson we've come to expect," said Cohen. "He talks like a moderate in Florida, but he votes like a LockStep Liberal with President Obama. Enough's enough."
But Nelson's spokesman, Dan McLaughlin, said Nelson has been consistent.
"He said he favored keeping the Bush-era tax cuts for those making up to a $1 million. But that's not what was before the Senate," McLaughlin wrote. "He isn't going to support raising taxes on everybody who makes under $250,000."
McLaughlin pointed to previous votes in which Nelson favored keeping tax cuts on those who make less than $1 million and supported the current tax rates on those individuals making up to $200,000.
Wednesday's Democratic Senate vote was more of a symbolic action than a likely predictor of congressional tax policy because the measure won't pass the Republican-controlled House. Republicans say the tax increase is a job killer. Democrats say it's needed to help the budget.
Leading up to the vote, national publications noted that the Senate vote put pressure on two embattled Democratic senators: Nelson and Missouri's Claire McCaskill. Nelson and Mack are essentially tied in Florida, according to the averages of recent polls.
A number of national polls, which closely resemble Florida surveys, have indicated that voters favor raising taxes on those individuals who earn more than $200,000 and households that earn more than $250,000.
Still, raising taxes in an election year and bad economy isn't a preferred course of action for politicians. Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker, who conducts surveys on behalf of the Tampa Bay Times and its news partners, has repeatedly pointed out that, in Florida, "tax is a four-letter word" to the electorate, which has a high proportion of anti-tax wealthy retirees.
But Democrats needed to deliver a vote on the tax-the-wealthy issue for President Barack Obama, who says the rich need to pay more of their fair share of taxes.
While Nelson's camp believes voters will give him credit for being pragmatic and supporting a popular position, Mack spokesman David James said Nelson's vote exposed a character flaw.
"He put his party above his principles," James said.