One of the unexpected winners in Tuesday’s Republican presidential primary in Florida wasn’t even on the ballot: Congressman Connie Mack.
The leading Republican candidate in the U.S. Senate race, Mack earned national media exposure stumping across the state for Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor went so far as to anoint the 44-year-old Mack in campaign stops as "the next senator from Florida."
That endorsement helped drive Mack’s opponent, Adam Hasner, out of the race this week and into a congressional race in South Florida. Another GOP challenger, Craig Miller, exited to run for a congressional seat, too, leaving only former Sen. George LeMieux as a serious challenger.
Other Republican candidates may remain in the race, but Mack is acting the part of frontrunner, and is backed up by polls. Among likely Republican voters, Mack leads former Sen. George LeMieux 38 to 12 percent, according to a Mason-Dixon poll released Jan. 27 and conducted for the Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald, the Tampa Bay Times, Bay News 9 and Central Florida News 13. Mike McCalister registered 7 percent in the poll.
Mack has aimed his campaign rhetoric squarely at the incumbent Democrat, Sen. Bill Nelson, 69, whose last election was his 2006 trouncing of then-U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris, the state’s former Secretary of State.
Mack supported Romney in 2008, too. But he called the week he spent on the campaign trail with Romney "a huge benefit" in developing a relationships with a presidential campaign that will also be running hard in Florida.
"I had the opportunity to be with the guy who won the primary, and to work with him and on his behalf," he said.