Connie Mack Leads Florida GOP Field, Ties Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson

05/24/2012 08:17 am ET | Updated May 24, 2012

Florida Rep. Connie Mack has a sizable lead in the state's Republican primary for Senate, and he's evenly matched against incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, a poll out Thursday says.

In spite of Tea Party insurgents complicating contests elsewhere in the country, Mack, a fourth-term member of Congress, has largely embraced the movement and has large leads on all his competitors, the Quinnipiac University poll found.

Mack is leading the Republican field with 40 percent of voters, topping the 8 percent for Tea Party-backed hopeful Mike McCalister and the 7 percent for former Sen. George LeMieux.

The survey finds that the general election contest is a statistical dead heat, with Mack netting 42 percent of support to Nelson's 41 percent.

Mack faced a residency controversy, and some members of the Tea Party have criticized him for not being conservative enough, but he's also won prominent conservative support, including the endorsement of Tea Party favorite Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

"Although some activists have been critical of Congressman Connie Mack and his campaign, he retains an overwhelming lead in the race for the Republican Senate nomination and is tied with Sen. Bill Nelson," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "It is not clear how the late entrance of former Congressman Dave Weldon into the race will affect the campaign, but Mack's lead is pretty formidable with three months until the primary."

Nelson has slipped since a March 29 Quinnipiac survey, when he led with 44 percent over Mack's 36 percent.

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