04/09/2012 04:20 pm ET Updated Apr 10, 2012

George LeMieux: I'm No Charlie Crist

Former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux (R-Fla.), known as the political mastermind behind former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, is trying to distance himself from the unpopular former governor as he campaigns to return to the Senate. Crist's moderate stances and eventual switch to the Independent party made him wildly unpopular with the GOP and a possible liability for LeMieux's campaign.

LeMieux is battling Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) for the Republican Party nomination; the winner will try to unseat long-time Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in November. LeMieux has trailed Mack in the polls, though he won a small straw poll in February.

Mack's attempts to attack LeMieux for his ties to Crist are tempered by the fact that Mack also supported the former governor while he was part of the GOP. But that hasn't stopped the attacks from coming. In February, Mack mocked LeMieux for having "created" Crist and suggested his opponent was "amoral," the Miami Herald reported.

Both candidates are courting the Tea Party to gain ground in the closely-watched race.

"As Republicans, we're all disappointed in (Crist), but what's important here is what I did when I was in the U.S. Senate and what my positions are now and what I'll do when I go back," LeMieux told Florida Tea Party leaders, reported the Associated Press.

Meanwhile Mack raised eyebrows recently when he called Paul Ryan's budget plan a "joke" -- a crack some Tea Party members have defended.

10 more election stories from beyond the presidential field:

David Rivera Gets A Democratic Opponent [Miami Herald]

Steve Welch Stands Out Among GOP Senate Hopefuls In Pennsylvania [Philadelphia Inquirer]

Tea Party Backs Connie Mack Slamming Ryan Budget [Tampa Bay Times]

Debbie Stabenow's Favorability Climbs [TPM]

Ted Cruz Wants To Be The Marco Rubio Of Texas [The Hill]

Dick Lugar, Richard Mourdock Gear Up To Debate [Associated Press]

Ethics, Redistricting Are Players In Charlie Rangel Race [Roll Call]

Shelley Berkley Tries To Control The Message In Nevada Senate Race [Associated Press]

Wisconsin Recall Pits Democrats Against Democrats [TPM]

Vulnerable Democrats Turn To Veterans [Politico]