Look for George LeMieux to remain a major player in national and Florida politics.The former U.S. senator isn't going anywhere.
At first glance, LeMieux confronts major challenges to remaining politically viable. In 2009, he was appointed to the U.S. Senate by his old ally, then-Gov. Charlie Crist. While LeMieux was Crists chief of staff, he supported Marco Rubio in the contest for the Senate seat in 2010, when Crist jumped ship on the Republicans to run for the seat with no party affiliation.
LeMieux clearly enjoyed being in the Senate and hoped to win the Republican nomination in 2012 to challenge long-serving Democrat Bill Nelson and return to the upper chamber. But he gained little traction and, at the urging of state party leaders, pulled out of the race two months before the primary fight to offer an unenthusiastic endorsement of Connie Mack.
While he is still handicapped by his association with Crist, LeMieux is still hoping for a second political act despite his current position as chairman of the board of the Gunster Law Firm. He is only 43 years old, has plenty of time to regroup. Earlier this month, the former senator launched the LeMieux Center for Public Policy at Palm Beach Atlantic University. The university will also archive his papers.
LeMieux is also looking to stay active in national politics. A darling of several prominent national conservative groups and assorted fiscal watchdogs during his brief stay in the Senate-- the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Taxpayers Union and the Concord Coalition, for example -- he has penned editorials in recent weeks on various topics.
Last week, LeMieux published a piece on the looming fiscal cliff in the conservative Washington Times. In his op-ed, he warned as he did while he was in office, that the nation needed to reduce the national debt.
As Washington has mismanaged past budgets and revenue, the real danger in all of this is not new revenue, LeMieux wrote. The danger is growing the size of government with new taxes and deficits as far as the eye can see. Dont be fooled by all the motion to get a deal done on the fiscal cliff. Real action will be known when we implement a plan that pays down the debt.
At the end of November, LeMieux turned to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to write a piece on Medicaid fraud.
Strangely enough, while he did not make it to the primary, LeMieux seems to have survived the 2012 Senate race. Nelson buried Mack at the polls, grabbing 55 percent while the Republican limped behind with 42 percent. Its hard to imagine LeMieux, a savvy political operator familiar with the nuts and bolts of campaigns, running as uninspired a campaign as Mack did against Nelson. While LeMieux was not as tight with Mitt Romney as Mack was or as reliant on outside groups, during his brief tenure in the Senate, he did earn the attention of the national Republican leadership.
LeMieux also showed a knack for launching political attacks. In 2011 and early 2012, LeMieux attacked Mack over everything from his personal life to his record in office. When it was his turn to define Mack, Nelson followed LeMieuxs game plan to a tee and launched blistering attacks against the hapless Republican candidate. While he would have been hard pressed to defeat Nelson, its conceivable that LeMieuxs attacks could have made him more competitive than Mack turned out to be against the Democrat.
Oddly enough LeMieux is still on his feet and probably looks better after Nelsons victory because its hard to imagine he would have run as inept a campaign as Mack did. As he continues to show signs that he will remain politically active, he still has a seat at the political table which is, ironically, not something that can be said about Mack.
Freelance political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis piece exclusively for Sunshine State News.