GOP Hopefuls Sharpen Their Attacks Against Bill Nelson
With many Floridians unsure about Democratic incumbent, pack of Republicans look to portray him on their own terms
Around the State
Recent polls have shown that Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson has more supporters than opponents among Florida voters but, despite serving in the Senate for two terms and spending decades on the state’s political stage, he remains an unknown quantity to many voters in the Sunshine State
That gives the field of Republicans looking to challenge him an opportunity.
A poll from Quinnipiac University earlier in the month found that the recent deal over raising the federal debt ceiling hurt Nelson. In a poll taken from July 27-31, before the deal was reached, 45 percent of those surveyed approved of Nelson’s performance while 33 percent disapproved. In a poll taken on Aug. 1 and 2, after the deal was reached, only 42 percent approved of Nelson while those who disapproved stood at 35 percent.This was a step back for Nelson from a poll released by Quinnipiac on May 26, when a majority of Floridians approved of the Democrat. At that time, 51 percent approved of Nelson compared to 24 percent who disapproved.
Nor was this the only poll with bad news for Nelson released this summer. A poll from the Democratic outfit Public Policy Polling taken in late June showed that 38 percent of those surveyed approved of Nelson while 31 percent disapproved. Almost a third -- the remaining 31 percent -- were undecided.
Looking to portray Nelson in an unflattering light, the field of Republican candidates went on the attack this week.
The team behind former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, now running in the Republican primary to challenge Nelson, went on the attack on Friday, bashing Nelson for taking part in a fundraiser hosted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in Lake Tahoe.
“Senate Godfather Harry Reid's latest ‘job’ is under way in Nevada, where he will be hosting a $10,000-a-person party for Bill Nelson and other liberal family members. In exchange for campaign cash, Reid will ask Nelson for some favors that include supporting his aggressive left-wing operation,” wrote Brian Seitchik, LeMieux’s campaign manager, in an e-mail sent out on Friday morning. “Nelson has been a reliable Reid ally for years, spending taxpayer money and serving as a vote for Obamacare, higher taxes, earmarks, and amnesty.”
LeMieux looked to link Nelson to other Democrats besides Reid this week. On Thursday, the former senator unloaded on President Barack Obama and Florida’s senior senator on the economy.
“President Obama and Senator Nelson continue to support policies that are hindering our economic recovery. Together, they continue to create economic uncertainly by failing to lead with clarity, supporting higher taxes, and refusing to solve America’s debt problem,” noted LeMieux. “As a result, we continue to struggle with the worst economy in 70 years, high unemployment, record dips in the stock market, and a downgrading of America’s credit rating. I sincerely hope the president and Senator Nelson reconsider their policies and support initiatives that foster economic growth and encourage job creation.”
Earlier in the week, another Republican hopeful, Craig Miller, the former CEO of Ruth's Chris, rapped Nelson over the Reid fundraiser.
“It is unacceptable that Congress takes vacation for an entire month after it [raising the debt limit] and the president brought the country to the brink of default,” said Miller on Wednesday. “The people I’m talking to on Main Street don’t understand how career politicians like Bill Nelson can reward themselves with time off after they’ve spent over 800 days operating without a budget. They don’t understand how the people in Washington get a break from work, when many of them can’t even find jobs thanks to the policies coming out of Congress.
“Unemployment in Florida is at 10.6 percent, our country has had one of its credit ratings downgraded and Congress just authorized $900 billion in more debt,” added Miller. “This is no time for a vacation. Bill Nelson and the rest of Congress need to go back into session immediately and work to tackle our nation’s problems, because that’s what they were elected to do. Instead, Bill Nelson is going to spend part of his government-paid vacation on a trip to Lake Tahoe to collect campaign checks with Harry Reid. The voters of Florida deserve better.”
Miller continued firing away at Nelson on Friday, calling for the senator to stand up to Reid and demand that U.S. Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the chairwoman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC), step down from her position as co-chair of the new Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction which is in charge of cutting $1.2 trillion from the federal government over the next decade.
Miller opened up another line of attack as well on Friday, weighing in on a decision from the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that found unconstitutional the individual mandate contained in the federal health-care law backed by President Barack Obama.
“This decision should remind the career politicians like Bill Nelson that they took an oath to the Constitution, not to their party platform,” said Miller. “The individual mandate is patently unconstitutional and I am pleased that today’s court decision acknowledges that fact. Obamacare was rammed through Congress last year by out-of-touch politicians who thought they knew better than the folks on Main Street and thought they could ignore the Constitution. Today’s ruling is a first step. Next year voters will take the second step, when they will elect principled leaders who will go to Washington and vote to repeal this law entirely.”
Another Republican candidate -- former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner -- has also gone on the attack against Nelson as well as primary rival LeMieux.
“Bill Nelson and George LeMieux have grown accustomed to being called ‘Senator’ and they will do anything they can to keep it that way. Already, they have launched false and misleading attacks,” insisted Hasner earlier in the month. “Bill Nelson is relying on the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and liberal groups like Progress Florida to do his bidding, while George LeMieux resorts to the tricks he learned as Charlie Crist's top political operative.”
Retired Army officer and businessman Mike McCalister, who ran in the Republican gubernatorial primary in 2010 and took more than 10 percent of the vote, has also unleashed fire on Nelson -- but he has also shown no problem in taking aim at the other politicians in the race, namely LeMieux and Hasner.
“If we are going to defeat these liberals, then we need a strong conservative,” posted McCalister on his Twitter account earlier in the month. “Defeat Bill Nelson!”
McCalister showed no reluctance to take the gloves off, and ripped Nelson at the end of July for voting against "cut, cap and balance" and for backing the increase in the debt ceiling.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.