Connie Mack IV has gained on incumbent Bill Nelson in Florida’s Senate race, but Democrats still hope to hang on to the seat.
Mack, son of former Sen. Connie Mack III, is challenging Nelson for the seat he was first elected to in November 2000. Nelson’s career in public service dates back to 1972, when he was first elected to the state Legislature. Mack has represented Florida’s 14th District in Congress since 2005.
Until recently, Nelson, 70, had a comfortable lead in the polls, but Mack, 45, has been making up ground. A Rasmussen poll released Oct. 15 showed Nelson with 46 percent compared to 45 percent for Mack. A week earlier, Nelson held a double-digit lead.
But even the pollster doubts the results of the survey. “It is highly unlikely that public opinion shifted 10 points within a week. That suggests either last week’s results or this week’s may be an outlier. Polling theory suggests that one out of every 20 polls will produce results outside the margin of error,” Rasmussen admitted in a statement.
A Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9/Miami Herald poll released Oct. 15 showed Nelson with 47 percent compared to 42 percent for Mack, three points tighter than the previous poll. But Nelson continued to draw in more independents and also had some crossover appeal with registered Republicans, pollsters said.
So far, the surge Mitt Romney has enjoyed following President Barack Obama’s lackluster performance in their first presidential debate has not translated into a lot of added support for Mack.
"There is the potential there for Romney to pull Mack up,'' Maxon-Dixon pollster Brad Coker told the Brandenton Herald. "My only question is, does Mack have the organization and campaign and resources to make it happen? He can't just rely on coattails."
Obama won Florida in 2008, and the key swing state is being hotly contested in this election season.
In fundraising, Nelson has the clear advantage. The incumbent has raised $13.9 million compared to $3.3 million for Mack, according to the Center for Responsive Politics
But Mack has benefited from super PACs and other advocacy groups that have spent millions on ads attacking Nelson. These groups include Americans for Prosperity, the 60-Plus Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Freedom PAC Florida, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Nelson has gotten some help from American Bridge, a PAC funded by liberal billionaire George Soros, and from Saving Florida's Future, a pro-Nelson super PAC, but his outside support pales in comparison to Mack's.
Mack, who calls himself a “Jeb Bush Republican,” has been endorsed by the former Florida governor. Former Gov. Charlie Crist has endorsed Nelson, who serves on the Senate Commerce, Budget, Finance, Intelligence and Aging committees. He is also recognized as the Senate’s expert on NASA.
Nelson has been married to his wife, Grace, since 1972 and has two grown children. Mack is married to California Rep. Mary Bono Mack, widow of Sonny Bono. He has two children and two stepchildren.
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