George LeMieux ends US Senate campaign

Published On: Jun 20 2012 10:15:01 AM EDT   Updated On: Jun 20 2012 04:12:05 PM EDT

Former Sen. George LeMieux dropped out of the Republican primary for Senate on Wednesday, saying that he can't compete against Connie Mack IV's famous name and the fact that the party establishment has gotten behind the congressman.

LeMieux, who was appointed to fill the last 16 months of Sen. Mel Martinez' term, said he didn't have the money for widespread television ads to counter Mack's name recognition and Mack's refusal to debate won't allow voters statewide to compare the two.

He said his decision will give the party a better chance of beating Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in November.

"To continue would only hurt our chances in the fall, and that is not something that I will risk. Connie Mack will be our nominee. He has my support," LeMieux said in a video emailed by the campaign to reporters and supporters.

But the support comes after months of attacking Mack. LeMieux called Mack the Charlie Sheen of Florida politics, pointing to a bar fight, an arrest and his messy divorce. LeMieux said Mack wasn't fit to serve in the Senate.

A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed Mack ahead of LeMieux by more than 30 percentage points.

"LeMieux couldn’t get out of single digits in a Republican Primary. He was running badly behind Nelson in a matchup," said Peter Brown of Quinnipiac.

Former Congressman Dave Weldon entered the primary just before qualifying, but has little money or name recognition outside the Space Coast district he used to serve. Mack is helped by the name he shares with his father, a former senator, and his great-grandfather, the Hall of Fame baseball manager.

Mack has racked up an impressive list of endorsements, including former Gov. Jeb Bush.