TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Former Sen. George LeMieux dropped out of the Republican primary for Senate on Wednesday, saying that he can’t compete against rival Rep. Connie Mack’s famous name and the fact that the party establishment has gotten behind the congressman.
Mr. LeMieux, who was appointed to fill the last 16 months of Sen. Mel Martinez’s term, said he didn’t have the money for widespread television ads to counter Mr. Mack’s name recognition and Mr. 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,” Mr. LeMieux said in a video emailed by the campaign to reporters and supporters.
Mr. LeMieux was appointed to the Senate by then-Gov. Charlie Crist and agreed not to run for the seat when the term expired in 2011. Mr. Crist sought the seat, but lost the 2010 election running as an independent to Marco Rubio.
Mr. Mack has already been campaigning as if he won the nomination. He refused to debate his primary opponents and has emailed supporters and potential donors that he wants to now take the fight directly to Mr. Nelson. Now the only candidates standing in the way are former Rep. Dave Weldon, who entered the race just before the qualifying deadline and isn’t well known outside the Space Coast district he used to represent, and retired Army Col. Mike McCalister, who has few resources and little organization.
A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed Mr. Mack ahead of Mr. LeMieux by more than 30 percentage points. Mr. Mack is helped by the name he shares with his father, a former senator, and his great-grandfather, the Hall of Fame baseball manager.
“He wasn’t going anywhere,” Peter Brown, assistant director of Quinnipiac’s polling institute, said about Mr. LeMieux. “He couldn’t get out of single digits.”
Mr. Mack has racked up an impressive list of endorsements, including former Gov. Jeb Bush.
Mr. LeMieux’s decision comes exactly two weeks after writing a $10,440 check to qualify for the Aug. 14 primary.
An average of recent state polls compiled by RealClearPolitics.com gives Mr. Nelson, a two-term senator considered a potential target for Republicans in the fall, a 6.8-percentage-point lead over Mr. Mack.