"A lot has changed in a year," Florida's outgoing Sen. George LeMieux told a filled members-only hall at the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches Monday.
LeMieux spoke to the same group about one year ago when he was a newly appointed senator, placed there by his former boss, Gov. Charlie Crist.
Since then Crist has strained and shattered his political loyalties by bolting the Republican Party and engaging in well-documented flip-flops. And LeMieux has changed his political aspirations in his desire to seek a full term as U.S. senator.
LeMieux says he's weighing a few factors before making the decision final. There are family considerations, he says, but he's also interested in seeing who else will throw their hat into the ring.
"If I feel like there's somebody who would do an equal or better job than me, for our country, then it would be smarter for me to step aside and allow myself to spend some more time with my four kids who are 7 and under," said LeMieux. "If I look out and don't think that there's someone like a Jeb Bush, for example, who's going to run, and I don't think that there's going to be a problem solver that's going to be compelling for me."
One of LeMieux's potential competitors for the job, Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos, says Jeb Bush has already indicated to him that he would not run, which means there may be nothing standing in the way of LeMieux or Haridopolos.
But if LeMieux does choose to run, he will likely have to face the ghost of elections past.
LeMieux has long had close ties to embattled Gov. Charlie Crist, who at one point employed LeMieux as his chief of staff. Crist called him the "maestro" of his 2006 gubernatorial victory.
But LeMieux also has suspicious ties to the controversial Everglades land deal between Crist and U.S. Sugar. He was Crist's chief of staff when the deal was first developed. In 2008, he returned to work for Gunster, the law firm working out the terms of the deal. LeMieux said he never discussed the deal with Crist, and recused himself from negotiations with U.S. Sugar Corp. while he was chief of staff.
While public outrage over cost and other terms of the deal likely had some influence on Crist's loss in November, LeMieux seems to have escaped criticism unscathed.
"When I go around and talk to Republican groups around this state," said LeMieux, "I get a lot of gratitude and support for the fact that I supported Marco Rubio the day after Charlie Crist left the Republican Party."
LeMieux will finish his partial term at the end of this year, and is expected to make his 2012 senatorial campaign plans official in the coming weeks.