The smoke has cleared in an important US Senate fight in a key swing state today, allowing Republicans an opportunity to focus on a potential takeaway in November. George LeMieux, whose primary campaign has been handicapped by his one-time appointment as an interim US Senator by the generally-reviled former Governor Charlie Crist, withdrew today. The move leaves the field open to conservative favorite Connie Mack IV, who can now focus on unseating Senator Bill Nelson in November:
George LeMieux is quitting the race for Senate. That means that Rep. Connie Mack is all but guaranteed to win the Republican race and face Sen. Bill Nelson.
LeMieux offered a somewhat graceless valediction, blaming Mack’s fundraising, his resistance to a series of debates, and most laughably the party “establishment” for his inability to compete in the primary:
The establishment has thrown their support behind my competitor, Connie Mack. Ahead of us in the polls, the Mack name enjoys widespread recognition that can only be matched with substantial advertising or the opportunity to debate on statewide television.
Advertising, which our finances cannot support, and debates, which my competitor won’t agree to.
It is not my nature to step aside, but there is a reality to running a statewide race in Florida. Without the resources or the opportunity to debate, our message simply cannot be heard.
I’ve interviewed LeMieux a couple of times, and I think he did a good job with the interim appointment — certainly better than many thought once Crist went off the reservation in 2009-10. However, blaming the party “establishment” is silly and transparently hypocritical. LeMieux wouldn’t have been able to compete at all for this seat except for his raised profile as an interim Senator — which came entirely as a result of his own ties to the party “establishment,” at least as it existed at the time. After Crist’s betrayal and a couple of scandals, the Republican Party of Florida cleaned house, and it’s not surprising that former Crist allies might not be terribly popular.
Still, LeMieux made the right decision. Mack can now focus all of his energy and resources on beating Nelson in November, a key chance for a pickup that could put Republicans back in control of the Senate in 2013.