Word wars

So now the campaign for Connie Mack's U.S. Senate seat is down to two: Republican Congressman Bill McCollum and Democratic insurance commissioner Bill Nelson, and the battle's already getting nasty. Last Friday, McCollum's office sent out a news release blasting Nelson for taking "the low road -- it's a very sad start."

The release bases its assumption on a quote in the June 15 Miami Herald, in which Nelson said, "[The race] is a choice between a centrist and an extreme right winger who is out of touch with the mainstream of Florida." That's it: Nothing personal, just politics -- and arguably 100 percent accurate politics, at that.

Of course, it was barely a month ago that McCollum saturated the airwaves with an ad criticizing his then-Republican opponent Tom Gallagher as "slick" and "sly" and someone who "wants to raise your taxes." That ad, which was the culmination of an increasingly brutal primary fight, helped to prod the state's Republican leadership into leaning on Gallagher to drop out of the Senate race and campaign instead for Nelson's vacated seat as the state's insurance commissioner.

The press release implies that that comment is just the latest in Nelson's pattern: "It is no secret," the release states, "Bill Nelson has run vicious campaigns in the past."

"The theory," says Florida Democratic Party spokesman Tony Welsh, "is say it, and see if anybody stops you."

As of press time, a database search showed that no major media outlet had picked up on the release. In all likelihood, it went straight from the mailbag to the trash can -- right where it belongs. But it seemed necessary to point out the dichotomy between McCollum's assertions and the reality -- and let voters decide which campaign qualifies as more "vicious."

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