Connie Mack opens big lead in Florida GOP Senate contest

TALLAHASSEE — U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV of Fort Myers has become the frontrunner in a three-way contest for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday shows.

The conservative congressman with a famous name received 40 percent support from a group of 742 registered Republican voters in a random telephone survey compared to 8 percent for Tea Party favorite Mike McCalister and 7 percent for Fort Lauderdale attorney George LeMieux, who served the final 16 months of former U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez's term,. LeMieux, who was appointed by former Gov. Charlie Crist to fill the vacancy upon Martinez's surprising decision to not finish his six-year term, did not seek re-election for the seat now held by freshman U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Miami.

"Mack's lead is pretty formidable with three months until the primary," pollster Peter Brown said. "He retains an overwhelming lead."

Quinnipiac's survey of Republican voters taken May 15-21 has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

The only possible silver lining for LeMieux and McCalister in the latest Quinnipiac numbers would be hope they could garner the backing of the 41 percent of the Republican respondents who said they were still undecided. The polling began before last Friday's entry of former U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon into the GOP primary race.

It also showed Mack, the son of former U.S. Sen. Connie Mack III and great grandson of the legendary baseball manager with the same name, in a general election horserace with incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. Mack was preferred by 42 percent to Nelson's 41 percent in a broader survey of 1,722 registered voters. That survey's margin of error was put at 2.4 percentage points.

The 69-year-old Nelson, who holds the seat previously held by Mack's father, is seeking a third Senate term in Washington. Nelson has no major opposition in the Aug. 14 primary.

The survey also showed Republican Gov. Rick Scott's job approval creeping over the 40 percent mark for the first time. Forty-one percent said they approved of the job Scott is doing in handling the state's business while 46 percent said they disapproved.

Floridians also are behind the state's "stand your ground" law by a margin of 56 percent to 35 percent. The law is at the heart of a national controversy in the death of a teenager, Trayvon Martin, who was fatally shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer who felt threatened by the unarmed teenager.

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