Florida congressman Connie Mack IV is now the front runner in the Republican Senate primary race, according to a new Quinnipiac poll. Mack, who has not yet officially announced his candidacy, leads all other Republicans vying for the spot, including former U.S. senator George LeMieux, who was appointed by then governor Charlie Crist to succeed Mel Martinez. Thirty-two percent of the poll's respondents indicated they would vote for Mack.
Mack is expected to challenge two-term Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson, who succeeded Mack's own father, Connie Mack III, in the Senate. In a head-to-head general election match-up, according to the poll, Nelson receives 42 percent to Mack's 40 percent, making the hypothetical race a statistical tie. The Florida seat is a high priority for Republicans as they attempt to take back the Senate next year. Nelson, one of the Senate's more vulnerable Democrats in 2012, will also benefit from Florida's important swing state status in the concurrent presidential election.