George LeMieux drops out of Florida Senate race
Updated at 11:12 a.m.
Former senator George LeMieux (R-Fla.) announced Wednesday that he will end his Senate campaign, citing a lack of resources, and endorsed Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.).
“As a former party chairman, I know that sometimes for the good of the party, and the good of the nation, a candidate has to bow out gracefully,” LeMieux said in a Web message thanking supporters. “In order to have the best chance to defeat (Sen.) Bill Nelson and put the Senate in Republican hands, today we will end our campaign.”
LeMieux’s decision leaves a still-crowded GOP primary in which Mack remains the early favorite. Other contenders include former congressman Dave Weldon and retired Army colonel Mike McCalister.
LeMieux endorsed Mack, saying it’s clear the congressman will be the GOP’s nominee against Nelson.
“Connie Mack will be our nominee,” LeMieux said. “He has my support.”
LeMieux was appointed to the Senate in 2009 by his longtime boss, then-Gov. Charlie Crist (R), but he stepped aside for Crist when Crist sought the seat. Those ties to Crist wound up being rather unhelpful as Crist plummeted in the GOP primary polls and decided to run as an independent. Today, Crist is persona non grata in GOP circles.
Despite his time in the Senate, LeMieux struggled to assemble a campaign war chest. He raised only about $400,000 over each of the last three quarters, and that money doesn’t go very far in a big state like Florida.
Florida is a second-tier target for Republicans, with the GOP field to face Nelson so far showing itself to be undistinguished and Mack’s campaign stumbling early.