U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Connie Mack IV brought his "Freedom Bus Tour" to Tampa on Wednesday, repeating his accusation that his opponent, Sen. Bill Nelson, is a "lockstep liberal" who acts differently in Washington than in Florida.
Mack met a small crowd for coffee and doughnuts at the Republican Party office in Brandon, accompanied by Attorney General Pam Bondi and former state Senate President Mike Haridopolos, who ran briefly in the Republican Senate primary last year.
Mack said Nelson "has made a career out of saying one thing to us in Florida and then doing something completely different in Washington."
Mack cited three examples:
He said Nelson initially criticized cuts in the Medicare Advantage plan as "unconscionable," but then voted for the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, which included the reductions.
Nelson's office said he successfully introduced a "grandfather" amendment to protect the benefits of current Medicare Advantage recipients before voting for Obamacare.
Mack also accused Nelson of hypocrisy for voting for last year's debt-ceiling deal, even though it left open the possibility of severe "sequestration" cuts in the defense and domestic budgets, which Nelson opposes.
Most members of Congress who voted for the deal said they expected to be able to avoid the "sequestration" cuts by reaching a later deficit-reduction deal.
And Mack criticized Nelson for holding a greenbelt property tax exemption on 55 acres of pasture land he owns in Brevard County, saying it saves Nelson $43,000 in property taxes a year, even though Nelson has advocated tax increases for the wealthy.
Nelson has said his family has held the property on the Indian River undeveloped since his father bought it in 1924, and that he hopes to pass it on to his children in the same condition.
Mack sought to associate himself with Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney while linking Nelson, a three-term Democratic incumbent, to President Barack Obama. He repeated criticisms of Obama made by Republicans, associating them with Nelson.
"Barack Obama and Sen. Nelson over the last four years have nationalized our health care system, they want to nationalize our banks, they want to nationalize the automobile industry," Mack said. "They think our society should be dictated to by government."
"If Mitt Romney wins, I win, and if I win, Mitt Romney wins," Mack told the crowd.
Nelson, a three-term Democrat, has a lead reaching double digits in some polls, while President Barack Obama has what most polls indicate is a 2-3 point edge over Romney in Florida.
Mack and his campaign spokesman, David James, said political polls published this year are skewed by oversampling Democrats because they're based on the election turnout from 2008. "It's not an accurate model," James said.
Firms behind the best-known political polls deny that, saying they aren't using turnout predictions to adjust polling samples.