by Javier Manjarres
Last weekend’s CPAC Florida event in Orlando was an important high-profile event for candidates to hob nob amongst the activists within the Republican Party of Florida and give a boost to both their name recognition and their campaigns. While the focus of attention was on the Republican Presidential nominees, the Senate candidates vying to unseat U.S. Senator Bill Nelson were also jockeying for position in their highly contentious race.
Former Staet House Leader Adam Hasner won the CPAC Florida straw poll with Colonel Mike McCalister coming in second, followed by former U.S. Senator George LeMieux and businessman Craig Miller. Most pundits see the Republican primary shaping up as a two-man race between Hasner and LeMieux. Miller is showing signs of life as he has finally begun to roll out his campaign, while McCalister’s campaign seems to have lost a lot of its early momentum, even though he came in second place in the straw poll to Hasner.
While McCalister is still running a spirited campaign, his past Military record has recently come under increased scrutiny, as McCalister is fending off accusations that he has embellished his service in the U.S. Army. As McCalister struggles to find his footing, his campaign’s questionable retention of campaign manager Jason Sager and affiliation with other within the fringe wing of the Republican party like Ellen Snyder of West Palm Beach,indicates that he hasn’t been able to attract top-flight staff to further his campaign’s efforts.
LeMieux on the other hand has surrounded himself with very polished help, but he will struggle in the race because of his past dealings with the disgraced former Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida Jim Greer as well as his close ties with Governor Charlie Crist.
The political barbs between Hasner and LeMieux are likely to continue as the race moves forward, but if the race takes on too much of an unnecessarily negative tone, Miller could very well be the beneficiary of the fallout, as voters will begin to lose interest in a ‘cat fight’ between candidates and seek an alternative.