Destination 270

SMU Students Analyze the 2012 Presidential Election

Florida Re-Elects Senator Bill Nelson

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President Obama wasn’t the only democrat who faired well statewide in Florida this election.  Democratic incumbent senator, Bill Nelson, was also ushered back in to office with a 55.2 percent of the vote.

Sen. Nelson was the presumptive victor for the majority of his campaign, however, after the first and only televised debate between he and his opponent, Connie Mack IV, it seemed as though his re-election wouldn’t be as easy as he had thought.  However, the splash made by Mack during the debate was relatively short lived, as he was not able to sustain enough momentum to ever take the lead.

Tuesday’s election results show Sen. Nelson was a clear favorite among Florida voters, despite the fact that his campaign was relatively less active than that of his opponents.  Mack tried everything he could to gain the attention and recognition he would need to defeat the popular incumbent.  Demanding a debate with his opponent, appearing with Romney surrogates and traveling thousands of miles by bus speaking to crowds around the state were among his many tactics.  However, Mack consistently struggled to find an audience that would listen and allow him to brand Nelson as a ‘liberal in disguise’.

Despite allegations from Mack that Nelson was a “tax-and-spend liberal,” Nelson’s record has been more moderate than most.  Throughout his tenure, Nelson has worked with several moderate Republicans.  He has recently been working across party lines to compromise over the budget deficit talks, and pledged throughout his campaign to work towards ending the bitter, ideological divisions that have prevented progress on the issue.

At his victory party last week, Nelson told Reuters that he felt the results were indicative of the fact that “people want a bipartisan consensus builder.”  According to the Tampa Bay Times, he told supporters that he will “try to reach across the aisle and build a consensus so that we can govern this country.”

Sen. Nelson was able to use his reputation as a moderate to lure in several independents and crossover voters this election.  He also has consistently enjoyed widespread support by the state’s Cuban American voters due to his tough and outspoken stance against communist rule in Cuba. With Cuban-Americans usually breaking more Republican than Democratic, Nelson’s support from the Cuban community was extremely advantageous.

Nelson’s thirteen-point victory comes despite being outspent by opponent, Connie Mack, by $4.5 million.  Mack was supported by outside conservative groups, affiliated with Karl Rove, the Koch brothers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, raising only $7 million on his own.  In total, Mack’s campaign spent $22 million. Bill Nelson’s campaign, on the other hand, spent a total of $17.5 million.  He raised over $12 million on his own, with the rest coming from the Democratic Party and third-party groups.

Despite their bitter battle against each other, both Sen. Nelson and Connie Mack have had nice words to say about their opponent since the race ended.  They also have avowed to working towards a more effective and less divisive government.

Nelson reminded Floridians during his acceptance speech, “In this toxic atmosphere, you must understand that Connie Mack is my opponent.  Not my enemy.”  Mack told the Associated Press that he is sure Nelson will live up to the high standards set for him.

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