TAMPA -- What's in a name? Rather a lot in politics, it seems. Florida Congressman Connie Mack IV has officially hopped into the race for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination and has immediately vaulted well ahead of the rest of the Republican field. A poll or two have actually shown Mack ahead of the current liberal incumbent Bill Nelson, who is seeking his third Senate term and is a loyal supporter of Barack O'Barnum and his leftist policies. None of the pre-Mack candidates have come close to leading Nelson.
Florida conservatives now show evidence of being energized by a race that to this point, even with several capable candidates, has been mostly dead air. Though at this point it's not altogether clear what all the excitement is about.
The word out of the Mack organization for weeks now has been that the son of former Florida U.S. Senator Connie Mack III (1989-2001) would run for the nomination he said he would not pursue in March (using the "spend more time with my family" euphemism for the less cuddly admission, "I don't think I can win this"). Mack announced officially Monday night on Hannity.
Mack has a conservative voting record in the U.S. House, where he has represented the Fort Myers (lower west coast) area since 2005. In his initial campaign remarks he has talked a conservative line:
"The idea that Washington will solve all of our problems is a failed model," Mack said. "Senator Nelson has stood side by side with President Obama, and I don't think I can say it any more clear than that."
And this: "The people of the state of Florida, what they're telling me is they've had enough. They've had enough of the lockstep liberals in Washington fighting for more government control of their lives."
Mack charges that both Obama and Nelson seem to believe that America can spend itself back to prosperity. Mack croons about his concern for the small business owner who is attempting to create jobs but is being held back by taxes and regulation created by the tag-team of Obama and Nelson.
Mack goes on to flog Nelson for his support of the Obama agenda "of more government," which good-solider Nelson has voted with 98 percent of the time, including items such as Obamacare, cap and trade, the Obama "stimulus" slush fund, raising the debt ceiling without end, amen, and other policies that don't sell well in center-right Florida.
All these things Mack is saying excite Republicans' political erogenous zones. But there exists yet no political instrument sensitive enough to measure the minute differences between what Mack is saying and what the other Republican candidates in this race, in full campaign mode for months, have been saying and getting no traction at all.
So why the excitement about Mack, when none existed for former U.S. Senator George LeMieux, former Florida House majority leader Adam Hasner, and businessman Craig Miller? There's not a palooka among this trio. But in polling to this point they've all finished well behind "someone chosen randomly out of the phone book."
Could the current Mack delirium be just a matter of name recognition? Possibly so. After three terms in the U.S. House, Mack III was a popular U.S. Senator from Florida from 1989 to 2001. Perhaps there's a bit of name miss-recognition going on here too, with an unknown number of poll respondents believing it is the former Senator himself making a comeback. (If there are voters who actually believe Mack IV is in fact his baseball manger and owner great grandfather, I'm really worried about these folks.)
Some pundits and political consultants have said that in addition to name ID, the source of Mack's popularity in the Republican base is that he's seen as more electable than the other candidates. When asked what makes Mack more electable, these worthies become vague.
LeMieux admittedly has too many vowels in his name for anyone to remember how to spell it (I have to look it up every time). But he put together a conservative record in his short time in the U.S. Senate. The same can be said for Hasner's time in the Florida legislature. Air Force veteran Miller put together some real achievement in the private sector, and because of his trade association work he's no political tender-foot either. Of the now four main candidates, Mack is probably the least articulate.
So, we'll have to see if this lasts. Mack may well be the Florida conservative horse for 2012. Or he may just be the flavor of the new month because conservatives were bored with the hand they had been dealt to this point. We already have the example of Rick Perry who jumped immediately into a lead when he was the new kid on the block and faded as voters got to know more about him.
Some of Mack's views on the climate change hustle and immigration may leave Florida conservatives scratching their heads. But, these tics aside, Mack is by any measure well to the right of Nelson. And many Florida conservatives today are saying the good news is there is a hope now of replacing a Florida liberal with a conservative in the U.S. Senate where there was none before.