Connie Mack's competitiveness shows the power of super PAC money

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And now we have a new poll that shows Mack closing in on Nelson in the influential I-4 corridor, with the incumbent Democrat in just a three-point lead, 47 to 44 percent. The Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9 survey breaks down the poll into the two big areas of the region: Orlando and Tampa. Nelson leads by seven points in Tampa Bay, and Mack is up by one point in Orlando.

The biggest third-party spender in the Florida Senate race is Karl Rove's American Crossroads, the nation's biggest super PAC has spent $4,022,606 against Bill Nelson. The U.S. Chamber has spent $3,846,303 against Nelson.

Freedom Pac is spending money in just a handful of important races where it believes the Senate could go back to Republicans (currently Democrats control the body 51-47, with independents Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Joe Lieberman in Connecticut frequently voting with them). They spent $3,678,626 in support of Mack.

Mack has needed that third-party support, because he's badly trailed Nelson all year long in fundraising. As of 10 days ago, Nelson had raised $16,293,959, Mack $5,820,386.

  • Connie Mack in Tampa last Tuesday

Before this campaign season began in earnest, supporters of President Obama said he would get swamped in fundraising due to the impact that the new political action committees, called super PACs, would unleash. But that really hasn't been the case — at least until now.

Bloomberg reported that the final campaign finance reports before the election show that Mitt Romney, the Republican National Committee, and super-political action committees backing his candidacy raised just short of $1 billion through Oct. 17. That’s about the same amount as Obama, the Democratic National Committee, and his allied super-PAC combined.

However, forces supporting Romney have about $37 million more than those supporting the president in the campaign's final stretch.

But there's always been the argument that such ads wouldn't have as much impact in a presidential race as they would in House or Senate seats, where the candidates — including the incumbents — aren't as well known. And we're seeing that play out to an extent here in Florida, as Connie Mack strives to stay competitive with Bill Nelson in their battle for U.S. Senate.

The Sunlight Foundation reported that close to $19 million has been spent by outside groups in the Mack IV-Nelson battle, with most of the money supporting Mack.

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