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National Politics

Weldon picks up endorsement

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 09:25 PM

John Stemberger, one of Florida's best known anti-abortion and religious conservative activists, has endorsed the underdog, former U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon, ahead of Rep. Connie Mack IV in the Republican U.S. Senate primary.

The endorsement doesn't seem likely to change the outcome of the primary race. Mack is far ahead in polling and has a famous name inherited from his father, former Sen. Connie Mack III, and has endorsements from many of the state's most prominent Republicans.

But it's emblematic of the dissatisfaction of some Republicans with their likely nominee.

In a news release, Stemberger called Weldon "solid as a rock" and "a true principled conservative" with "a proven voting record as a social and economic conservative."

Weldon has been among the hardest-line abortion opponents in Congress in the past. Mack, like his father, an anti-cancer crusader, also opposes abortion but has voted in favor of federal funding for stem cell research.

Stemberger added in his endorsement, "This is a man who will not embarrass us in his personal life."

That appeared to be a veiled shot at Mack, who left his wife and two children after being elected to Congress to marry Rep. Mary Bono of California, widow of former congressman and singer Sonny Bono, and who has a history of bar fights when he was younger.

Mack goes off on the press – again

Mack's Senate campaign responded to a newspaper's endorsement of his opponent in the primary by blasting the newspaper and a reporter, as he's done before.

As in the previous instance, the campaign again brought into the argument the name of Mack's father, former Sen. Connie Mack III.

"Adam Smith and the Tampa Bay Times should have the decency to admit they are Left Wing Democrats," said Jeff Cohen, Mack's campaign manager, in a letter to the Times that also was distributed as a news release.

The release was in response to the Times' endorsement of former Weldon in the primary. That wasn't a big surprise, considering that Mack refused to participate in the Times' planned debate among the primary candidates, or conduct an interview with the Times' editorial board.

But Cohen spent much of the letter attacking Smith, political editor of the Times, who's not involved in decisions of the editorial page, including endorsements.

"Your attacks on Connie are reminiscent of your brutal attacks on his father when he ran for the U.S. Senate. … ," Cohen wrote. "What people find offensive and intellectually dishonest is your refusal to admit that Adam Smith's agenda is Left Wing and Democrat, as is your newspaper."

The Times' endorsement of Weldon included criticism of Mack, calling him an "opportunist" with "questionable work habits, a sense of entitlement and an undistinguished record in Congress."

In April, the campaign published a similar attack on the Times and The Miami Herald, which share political coverage, in the form of a published letter by the elder Mack. That followed a story by Smith and Herald reporter Marc Caputo saying Republicans were disillusioned by Mack's "lackluster" campaign, and a Caputo story on Mack's history of bar brawls and financial problems.

Mack continued his public criticism of Smith at a Hillsborough County Republican Party meeting where he spoke Tuesday night, calling him "a mouthpiece for the liberals in the state" and saying he wouldn't answer Smith's questions until "you decide you want to be a real journalist," according to video posted by Politico.

But that didn't impress The Wall Street Journal, the editorial page of which is a bible for U.S. conservatives. It ran an op-ed piece Thursday saying, "Perhaps Florida Rep. Connie Mack someday plans to write a book on how to lose a winnable Senate race. Chapter One: Pursue a public vendetta against the press."

Purple poll gives Romney the edge

A new installment of the Purple Poll finds Mitt Romney leading Barack Obama 48-45 percent in Florida, a lead smaller than than the poll's error margin.

The Purple Poll is a poll of swing states done by a bipartisan polling team.

The poll, conducted July 9-13, used automated dialing or "robopoll" methodology and a sample of 600 Florida voters, for an error margin of 4points.

The same poll showed Romney with narrow leads in April and June. Other polls show the race equally close or closer.

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