Dave Weldon's late entry has had little initial impact on the Republican contest for the Senate in Florida. Connie Mack IV continues to be the clear leader with 34% to 13% for George LeMieux and 10% for Mike McCalister, with Weldon starting out at only 6% in the polls.
Mack continues to be the only candidate with any sort of name recognition. 53% of Republican primary voters have an opinion about him. LeMieux's at 31% and McCalister and Weldon are both known to less than 20% of the likely electorate.
Mack is winning easily with every segment of the electorate. He's pulling in similar numbers with men, women, moderates and conservatives, and is especially strong with seniors.
Winning the Republican primary in this race may prove to be a shallow victory anyway. Bill Nelson continues to lead all of his opponents by double digits, as has consistently been the case in PPP's polling on the contest. He's up 13 on both Mack and LeMieux at 49-36 and 48-35 respectively, 47-33 on McCalister, and 47-31 on Weldon.
What makes Nelson an unusually strong candidate is his appeal to Republicans. 23% of them approve of him, unusual in this highly polarized political climate. And he gets anywhere from 13-17% of the GOP vote in head to heads against his potential opponents. He's also strong with independents, leading the Republican candidates by anywhere from 20-24 points with them.
This race is likely to tighten once the GOP gets unified around its eventual nominee. There are almost twice as many undecided Republicans as Democrats in every possible match up for the fall, and once the candidate's been chosen that person's likely to see the party base unify around him some.
One thing to keep in mind though is that Nelson has pretty consistently run about 10 points ahead of Barack Obama in the state, largely because of his ability to peel off Republican votes. That means Obama would likely have to not only lose Florida, but lose it by a wide margin to bring Nelson down with him. That seems unlikely.
Our polls on this race have been pretty consistent- Mack's a strong favorite to win the primary, and then Nelson's a strong favorite to defeat him for another term in the general election.