To date, Florida’s Republican U.S. Senate primary race has been one heck of a circus, and you can bet that 2012 will provide even more entertainment in the race to capture the nomination. Even though Congressman Connie Mack’s recent entrance into the race put a high profile name into the mix, his questionable record gives many conservatives reason to pause; and with the other candidates in the race failing to garner much traction, many Republican faithful are growing concerned that Democrat Senator Bill Nelson could very well squeek past the GOP candidate in the 2012 general election.
Congressman Mack enjoys extensive name ID among Floridians, and is leading in the latest poll with 40% to former U.S. Senator George LeMieux’s 12%. Mack has yet to address the concerns of Florida’s conservative Republicans who have been at odds with Mack over his stance with the Arizona immigration law that caused so much controversy during the 2010 election cycle- Governor Rick Scott successfully ran on the issue that Arizona’s immigration law was needed in Florida.
The hope that the non-Mack candidates have in the race is that Republican voters really haven’t heard of them and that the results of these polls really aren’t a true indicator of hard support at this juncture. Adam Hasner has significant upside potential, as internal poll numbers show that he is much more favorable once people get to know him, but he still suffers from lack of name recognition. Hasner recently won the Presidency 5 straw poll in Orlando, besting LeMieux by 11%.This is the same case with businessman Craig Miller, who is also polling at the back of the pack.
Retired Colonel Mike McCalister is running third, but this is simply because of name recognition as well. McCalister ran against Governor Rick Scott in the Republican gubernatorial primary race in 2010, but McCalister seems to have other issues besides lacking name recognition.
During the last Republican Business Network meeting in Coral Springs, Florida, McCalister accosted an attendee at the event after showing displeasure towards a question that was posed to him. Even though the person who asked this question was an Adam Hasner supporter, merely asking McCalister if he would furnish is military DD214 records for inspection was not a question that should have prompted such an inappropriate response from McCalister.
McCalister has previously stated that he served under the U.S. Army Special Operations Command and even suggested that he was privy to ‘black ops’ and other covert intelligence. McCalister was called out for these claims, and he ducked reporters when further questioned about them.
After McCalister finished his address to the group, he proceeded to walk straight to the back of the room and extend his hand to the Hasner supporter. Once the Hasner supporter shook his hand, McCalister clenched the hand tightly and tried to bring his arm into his body, an obvious attempt at intimidation. Words were exchanged between the two men, and even after McCalister tried to walk away, McCalister couldn’t help but go after the man, again. McCalister’s Broward County campaign organizer intervened and pulled McCalister away from the escalating situation. Witnesses to the incident could not believe that McCalister lost his temper in such a way and questioned whether his reaction was appropriate behavior for someone who is running for elected office.
Perhaps the most significant intangible in this GOP primary race is former Governor Charlie Crist. Crist’s rise and fall into obscurity has been well documented, and many politicos who had supported him during his failed Senate run against Marco Rubio have paid a very steep political price. No one has more endured this guilt by association to Crist more than former Senator George LeMieux, as he was was Crist’s “maestro”, after all. LeMieux has received considerable criticism for his close ties to the former Governor even after Crist embraced the Obama and his failed stimulus plan. But LeMieux is not alone here- Congressman Connie Mack also was a big supporter of Crist’s, and he supported Crist even after the infamous “Fort Myers bearhug” with Obama.
We have all along suspected that this would be a messy race, and here we have it. Look for this race to become increasingly hostile as the candidates will no doubt begin to feel a sense of urgency about their prospects. Is there still another candidate out there that may jump in the race? Only time will tell…stay tuned!