With less than three weeks to go until the election to replace him in the U.S. Senate, Republican George LeMieux continued to weigh in on the issues as speculation continued to grow that he intends to launch a campaign to return to Washington in 2012 by challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.
LeMieux, who was appointed to the office by his old ally Gov. Charlie Crist and took his seat in September 2009, spent a good deal of 2010 raising concerns about increased spending in Washington -- a message he continued to pound on Friday.
Responding to the news that the federal deficit stood at $1.3 trillion for the 2010 fiscal year, LeMieux went on the attack, bashing programs backed by President Barack Obama as the cause.
Trillion-dollar deficits used to be unthinkable, but under President Obama and the Democrat majorities in Congress, they have become the norm, said LeMieux on Friday. We need to rein in government spending, we need better oversight, and we need serious lawmakers who will put our country back on the path to prosperity. We are at risk of having the same economic meltdown as Greece if we dont tighten our belts and make difficult choices now. Without a significant change in the way Washington spends, we risk debt and deficits for as far as the eye can see.
Calling for the federal government to cap spending to its 2007 levels, LeMieux has insisted that this solution would eliminate the deficit by 2013 and lead to a substantial reduction in the national debt. In August, along with members from the Concord Coalition, LeMiuex took that message to Orlando and Tampa in a bus tour.
LeMieuxs efforts have garnered him some attention in Washington. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has called LeMieux the most impressive appointed senator that he has seen in his 25 years in the Senate. LeMieux has also been a vocal backer of Sunshine State Republicans, supporting GOP candidate Marco Rubio, instead of his old friend Crist, to replace him in the Senate.
But while LeMieux has won praise in Washington, a poll released on Thursday found that he remains unknown to most Floridians.
Public Policy Polling (PPP) -- a firm with connections to Democrats -- looked at the potential 2012 U.S. Senate contests and matched Nelson against U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, whose father held the Senate seat from 1989 until 2001, and talk-show host Rush Limbaugh. Nelson took 50 percent while Limbaugh took 36 percent. Mack came closer to beating Nelson in the poll, taking 33 percent to Nelsons 45 percent.
Bill Nelson can only hope the GOP continues its string of bad primary picks and chooses Rush Limbaugh to go up against him next time, said Dean Debnam, president of PPP, obviously ignoring Republican candidate Marco Rubio who is the overwhelming front-runner for Novembers U.S. Senate contest. Unlikely as that is, though, Nelson still looks pretty good in this bad year for Democrats.
While the poll did not match LeMieux against Nelson, it focused on what Floridians thought of the senator. The poll found that 15 percent of Floridians approved of the way LeMieux was handling his duties in the Senate while 26 percent disapproved. The poll found 59 percent of those surveyed were not sure of how LeMieux was doing. The poll found Mack also remained largely unknown to most Floridians -- with 18 percent viewing him in favorable terms, 21 percent unfavorable and 60 percent not sure. Nelsons performance was approved by 40 percent, disapproved by 35 percent and 25 percent were not sure.
The poll of 448 likely voters was taken on Oct. 9-10 and has a margin of error of +/- 4.6 percent.
Mack has been expanding his visibility in recent months -- weighing in on international issues from his perch as the ranking Republican on the House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere to bash the Castro brothers in Cuba and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Mack has also been outspoken on domestic issues ranging from attacking the new Arizona immigration law to calling for the repeal of new federal health-care laws backed by President Barack Obama.
On Thursday, Mack cheered a federal judges decision to let a constitutional challenge to those measures, launched by Attorney General Bill McCollum, stand -- and offered stinging words against the new health-care laws.
This is great news for all those who believe in freedom and the Constitution, said Mack. Obamacare is unconstitutional at its very core. Nowhere in the U.S. Constitution does it state that the government can force individuals to purchase something like health insurance.
While this disastrous law should never have passed Congress in the first place, by allowing this lawsuit to proceed, the American people can make their strong case that Obamacare is unconstitutional and an affront to individual freedom, added Mack.
There has also been speculation that incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, is considering challenging Nelson. While Haridopolos sent Nelson pointed letters on national affairs over the summer, he has said his focus remains on Tallahassee for the time being.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting(850) 727-0859end_of_the_skype_highlighting.