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How Democrats are message-testing Bill Nelson's strengths and Connie Mack's weaknesses in FL Senate race

Even if former Sen. George LeMieux hadn’t unexpectedly dropped out of the U.S. Senate race Wednesday, Rep. Connie Mack was the Republicans’ de facto nominee anyway.

That’s how it looked from a Democratic-leaning mystery poll that coincided with LeMieux’s withdrawal.

Less than 20 minutes after Lemieux quit, an outfit that called itself “Florida Opinion Survey” began polling Florida voters to test a number of political messages that undoubtedly will be used to boost incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson and tear at Mack.

This wasn’t a so-called “push poll” — a call that masquerades as a survey but simply trashes an opponent. Instead, it’s a message-test poll that political consultants use to figure out what helps their candidate and hurts his opponent.

All the info will be boiled down into flyers and radio and television ads that make Florida elections into commercial-driven affairs where one-sided information is broadcast in 30-second increments. It’s a window into both the Democrats’ upcoming campaign against Mack as well as the misleading discourse that defines our politics.

Mack still needs to win the Aug. 14 primary against little-known fellow Republicans. LeMieux was his biggest obstacle. And, owing to Mack’s advantage in fundraising and name ID, LeMieux wasn’t much of an obstacle at all. Mack, however, sustained some damage during the primary.

Running essentially neck and neck with Mack, Nelson plans to pick up where LeMieux left off. According to the call-center operator at Quest, which was hired to conduct the survey, Democrats started to frame their message by asking whether the following statements would make a voter more or less likely to support a candidate:

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