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GOP Senate race still muddled

Posted Apr 19, 2012 by Joe Henderson

Updated Apr 19, 2012 at 12:48 PM

Here’s a column I did today on the confusing battle for the GOP race to face off against Bill Nelson in November for the US Senate. The field of candidates doesn’t appear to have excited even the Republican base to this point and it could get even more fractured if Florida CFO Jeff Atwater joins in, as he has suggested he will. Connie Mack’s campaign has been dogged by controversy, so much so that his father - a former senator himself - has trotted out a “blame the media” strategy.

IN THE CLASSIC movie The King and I, Yul Brenner summed up a situation by opining, “‘Tis a puzzlement.”

The same might be said of the Republican game plan to win a U.S. Senate seat in our state and deposit Florida’s 29 electoral votes in the presidential election on the red side. These guys have been so disjointed, they may need to borrow new Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano to teach the proper way to toe the line.

Look at this from a distance: The Democrats are running a vulnerable sitting senator, Bill Nelson, and a vulnerable president. Florida will be huge in determining who gets the White House for the next four years, and defeating a three-term senator would give Republicans control of all major political positions in the state.

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How have they handled this opportunity? Hillsborough County Republican operative Sam Rashid explains.

“I have a lot of reservations about this whole race. I don’t think the dynamics of the general election are gearing up for a big victory for us. There are more races now that we ought to concentrate on that we have a good shot at,” he told William March of The Tampa Tribune.

“I’m not sure how much time, money and effort I’m going to put into a race that at best is 50-50 come Election Day. I don’t have a passion to take out Bill Nelson when we’ve got bigger fish to fry.”

That would be President Obama, who holds a modest lead over Mitt Romney in several state opinion polls. It’s early, so we’ll stay tuned. That makes us more attentive than the President’s Secret Service detail, by the way.

Tuning in to the Senate race is more of a challenge. Who is in and who isn’t, and particularly who is at fault, depends on the day.

Watching this is giving me whiplash.

The latest Republican to nudge his beanie toward the outer rings of this thing is state chief financial officer Jeff Atwater, who seems to have commitment issues. He announced last year he wasn’t getting into the race, but appears to be reconsidering. Why would he do that? Maybe because no one else seems to have made up their minds.

Adam Hasner was in the race, but dropped out when Connie Mack IV, son of the former Florida senator by the same name, dropped in.

Mack, dogged by personal and tax-related issues, had dropped out because Senate President Mike Haridopolos dropped in. Mack reversed course when Haridopolos dropped out. George LeMieux says he is still in. Just thought you’d like to know that.

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Fortunately, the campaign had a slice of normalcy Wednesday when Papa Mack, who was a fine senator back in the day, turned to Page 1 of the campaign textbook and called the ol’ misdirection play.

The media, your honor. That’s the guilty party.

Connie The Elder released a letter to supporters calling reports from the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald about his son’s difficulties “ridiculous and outrageous.”

Brilliant. Pin the tail on the godless media frequently and loudly enough, and who knows? Maybe everyone will forget the puzzlement that created this mess in the first place.

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