Congressman Connie Mack spoke to the Broward Republican Executive Committee Monday night -- a group headed by one of his rivals, George LeMieux, about a decade ago.
Mack didn't mention LeMieux specifically until the question and answer session and instead focused his attacks on Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson and linked him to President Barack Obama. Some in the crowd cheered when Mack criticized Democrats but overall the audience didn't sound or appear too enthusiastic.
Mack tried to pay deference to the Broward Republicans who are outnumbered 2:1 by Democrats but those more than 250,000 GOP voters can help deliver a statewide candidate.
"If you want to win a statewide election you have to win in Broward County," Mack said, emphasizing the need to get out the vote in Broward to win.
Mack didn't unveil many specifics beyond summarizing his Penny Plan to balance the federal budget within eight years and mostly stuck to general principles -- calling for less government regulation and a Congress that repeals laws. He also suggested that the government should take away the right of agencies to pass rules and instead Congress and the Senate should vote on the rules.
Mack has taken heat for saying of Congressman Paul Ryan's budget plan "You know that budget was a joke, doesn’t balance the budget for years” and missing the vote.
His campaign later explained that Mack meant the "process" was a joke.
Monday night, he said he believed that there are a lot of positive aspects of Ryan's plan including entitlement reform but "the only problem I have is that the budget still doesn't balance for 28 years."
In interviews with reporters after his speech, Mack said if he had been present for the vote he probably would have voted against Ryan's budget plan because of how long it takes to balance the budget.
Moderators read questions submitted by the audience ahead of time. When Mack was asked why he was a better choice than his Republican opponents, he avoided criticizing LeMieux and offered a generic answer about his commitment to limited government, less taxes and more freedom.
"If you are looking for someone willing to stand up against our own leadership when we need to then I'm your guy. I've done it in the Legislature and I've done it in Congress. Whether its bailouts or TARP I have stood up and voted no," he said.
Mack didn't specifically answer a question about whether character should matter including his own past run-ins with the law decades ago.
"Raise your hand who wrote that?" Mack joked. "The mudslinging and name calling and dividing of the party we are beyond that. This is a distraction away from our real goal which is to beat Senator Nelson."
Mack was also asked how much time he spends in Florida and if he would release his travel log. Mack is married to Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack of California.
"This is an attempt by political opponents to try to make an issue that just doesn't exist," he said.