Having entered the Republican primary late to challenge Democrat incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, this week former U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon turned up his appeals to social conservatives as he tries to catch GOP front-runner U.S. Rep. Connie Mack.
On Thursday, David Barton, an evangelical leader, author and conservative activist who has been very active on fighting for an increased role for religion in the public square, announced that he was backing Weldon for the Republican nomination. Barton, who has been active with the GOP in Texas and at the national level, has won praise from social and religious conservatives for his efforts in the culture wars, but he has also drawn fire on a number of fronts including making serious errors in his attempts to write American history.
Barton praised Weldons conservative credentials in his endorsement of the former congressman.
"I am pleased to endorse Dr. Dave Weldon in his bid to become a U.S. senator from Florida, Barton, a former co-chairmen said in a statement. I have known and worked closely with Dave for many years and he is a balanced conservative -- he is both an economic and a social conservative. He is a strong and articulate champion of unborn life and traditional marriage, and also of debt reduction, the free-market system, limited government and American exceptionalism.
I witnessed Dave firsthand fighting for all of these things when he was in Congress, and he has a voting record that shows him to be beyond question a constitutional conservative, added Barton. Unlike so many other Senate Republicans who simply vote as Senate leadership tells them, Dave will fight for the right principles even if that means he has to stand up to his own leadership -- which he certainly did on occasion when he was in the House. To have such a courageous leader serve in the U.S. Senate would be an asset, not only for Floridians but also for all Americans."
I am deeply thankful and humbled by Davids endorsement, Weldon said. David and I have fought hard to pass legislation that protects families across Florida and this country. David is a strong national voice for life and marriage and its an honor hes supporting our campaign.
On Wednesday, hours after former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux announced that he was ending his bid for the Republican nomination and backed Mack, Weldon insisted he was staying in the race and unveiled the support of another prominent conservative -- Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas. Brownback was one of the chief social and religious conservatives during his time in the U.S. Senate and on the campaign trail during his unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.
With less than two months to go until the Republican primary, Weldon is struggling in the polls. In a poll by Quinnipiac University looking at the Republican primary released on Thursday, Weldon pulled in the low single digits. Mack led the pack with 41 percent while 39 percent were undecided. LeMieux pulled 8 percent while businessman and retired Army officer Mike McCalister took 5 percent and Weldon garnered 3 percent.
The poll showed that Weldon remains unknown to most Florida voters despite his 14 years of service in Congress. While 10 percent said they viewed Weldon favorably and 7 percent saw him unfavorably, the rest of those surveyed did not know enough about the former congressman to have an opinion of him.
The poll did have some good news for Weldon -- the Republicans who know him see him in a favorable light. While the overwhelming majority of Republicans surveyed did not know enough about Weldon to have an opinion of him, 17 percent of them viewed him favorably and only 2 percent saw him unfavorably.
The poll of 1,697 registered Florida voters was taken from June 12-18 and had a margin of error of +/- 2.4 percent. This includes a sample of 698 Republican voters with a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percent
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com or at (850) 727-0859.