TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson is attacking Rep. Connie Mack IV's character in his second campaign ad, pointing out in the spot that began airing Thursday that his likely Republican opponent used to do Hooter's promotions and has a history of getting in trouble at bars.
It shouldn't be any surprise for Mack, who faced the same criticism from a Republican opponent. This time, though, the attack isn't limited to a little-seen web ad, but in a buy that covers most of Florida.
The ad begins with a narrator saying, “Florida, meet Connie Mack the Fourth. A promoter for Hooters, with a history of bar room brawling, altercations and road rage. A big spender with a trail of debts, liens and unpaid bills. He has one of the worst attendance records in Congress this year, but voted to end Medicare as we know it.''
It then quotes a Tampa Bay Times editorial, saying “Questionable work habits … A sense of entitlement,'' before ending with the line, “He thinks the rules are different for him.''
As the narrator speaks, there are images of a smiling Mack next to separate images of a bar waitress carrying pitchers of beer, a police car, a pile of hundred dollar bills, a past due notice and an empty seat with his nameplate in front of it.
The line of attack is almost identical to the one former Sen. George LeMieux made before he dropped out of the Republican primary. Mack worked for a company that promoted events for South Florida Hooters restaurants. He was also in a bar fight with then Atlanta Braves outfielder Ron Gant and was arrested outside a Jacksonville nightclub in his 20s. And Mack did have financial problems while going through a divorce after being elected to Congress.
Mack's campaign immediately used the ad as a call for supporters to donate to him.
“Bill Nelson is scared _ and it's no wonder why. Over the past few weeks, poll after poll has shown he's in serious trouble. Now, with his support lagging across the state and Connie gaining momentum in the polls, Bill Nelson has opened up his campaign warchest with an early negative campaign ad smearing Connie,'' said a campaign email to supporters. “Bill Nelson is doing what every desperate losing candidate does _ smearing his opponent as hard as he can. After 40 years of being part of the problem, it's pathetic, but it's not surprising.''
A Quinnipiac University poll released this week showed Nelson with 47 percent support, compared to Mack with 40 percent. It had a 2.9 percent margin of error.
Mack still has to win the Aug. 14 primary, but he is the heavy favorite, buoyed by the famous name he shares with his father, a former senator, and his great-grandfather, a Hall of Fame baseball manager. Mack also has the backing of the Republican establishment, including former Gov. Jeb Bush and presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. His main challenger, former Congressman Dave Weldon, entered the race three months before the primary, isn't known statewide and doesn't have resources to effectively reach voters.