2018 U.S. Senate race

National Republicans target Nelson, en español

The National Republican Senatorial Committee doesn’t have a high-profile GOP candidate in the race — yet — but it’s  got a bullseye on incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson.

The national Republicans unleashed a Spanish-language radio ad in Miami, accusing  Nelson of having “aligned himself with communists and dictators.”

The ad equates Nelson’s support of President Barack Obama’s detente with Cuba to encouraging others like Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, and notes that Nelson “even visited Hugo Chavez” in the now- embattled country.

It’s the kicker that really hurts: “If Bill Nelson supports murderers, I can’t support Bill Nelson.”

There’s been a lot of speculation that Gov. Rick Scott is preparing to run against Nelson next year, but Scott — who’s assembled a campaign team headed by Melissa Sellers Stone — hasn’t said yet what his plans are.

Here’s the translation of the radio ad:

Let’s see what’s happening in the world today
Look at this. Another horror in Venezuela.
Our government in Washington has to stop Maduro and his accomplices.
What has our Senator Bill Nelson done?
In the past, he has aligned himself with communists and dictators.
Look at him with Cuba. He supported Obama when he negotiated with the other terrorists, the Castro brothers.
When Nelson supports the Castros, that only reinforces and encourages others, like it did with Chavez and now with Maduro.
In 2005, Bill Nelson even visited Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.
Here it says Nelson went to Venezuela to admire Chavez’s revolution.
If Bill Nelson supports murderers, I can’t support Bill Nelson.

Nelson sweeps through Panhandle

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U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson with supporters in Tallahassee Tuesday.

Congress has gone on its August recess, giving U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson the opportunity to spend two days working on something he’s specialized in throughout his lengthy career: retail politics.

Starting early Monday morning in Pensacola, the three-term Democratic senator hit more than a half-dozen spots in the Florida Panhandle before flying back to Orlando on Tuesday evening from Tallahassee.

After leaving Pensacola, Nelson made two stops in Walton County and two in Bay County,  and visited Bonifay and Chipley before winding up in Tallahassee.

He can tell you about dredging plans at the Port of Panama City as well as roads and a sewage plant “in desperate need” of repair in Esto, a town of fewer than 400 in Washington County.

But that’s classic Nelson, the Democrats’ only statewide office holder, who has never shied away from the rural conservative regions of the state even though voters there have become increasingly stalwart Republicans.

He’s comfortable in the Panhandle, a region where his great-great grandfather got off a boat in Port St. Joe and made his way to Orange Hill, a tiny farming community in Washington County.

He explained his campaigning style during his successful 2012 re-election campaign against former U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers.

“People wonder why I do well in North Florida — where a lot of national Democrats don’t necessarily do well — because I work it like a dog,” Nelson said at the time. “I go into those little rural communities and hold those town hall meetings so that I can hear from them.”

The efforts don’t mean Nelson will carry many counties west of Tallahassee in his 2018 re-election bid. But based on his prior results, he can keep the vote close in places like Gulf and Washington counties and perhaps reduce the margin in counties like Bay.

Nelson is expected to face Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s formidable money and messaging machine next year, with some suggesting this will be Nelson’s greatest challenge.

Asked to give odds on next year’s race, Nelson demurred — sort of.

“I’m not one to go around and crow and huff and puff and beat my chest, but I know how to campaign. I’ll leave it at that,” he said.

By Lloyd Dunkelberger.