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Bin Laden Politics at Play in Florida Senate Race

Sen. Bill Nelson used the death of Osama bin Laden and the decade-long war on terror to segue into criticism Monday of a Florida Senate bill that would make it harder for third-party groups to register voters.

“In an effort of 10 years, ever since Sept. 11, 2001, protecting our democracy, protecting us from those that would do harm and who provide this protection because our democracy is unique, we find ourselves gathered in our capital city of this state again here to protect our democracy,” the Florida Democrat said in Tallahassee, according to the Palm Beach Post.

“Now we are here for another reason of protecting our democracy, and that is to keep the right to vote,” said Nelson, who is running for re-election in 2012. “Don’t make it harder to register to vote, and don’t make it harder to try to count your vote. And that’s what we have in front of the legislature right now.” He said the bill would make it harder for members of the military to vote, according to local news reports.

State Senate President Mike Haridopolos, who is running in the GOP Senate primary for a chance to take on Nelson in 2012, slammed Florida’s senior Senator for his comments. Nelson “stoops to a new low and plays political games by comparing pending legislation to a terrorist organization that has killed thousands of people,” Haridopolos said in a statement.

After the news of bin Laden’s death at the hands of U.S. forces broke Sunday, Florida’s three declared Republican candidates for Senate took different tacks in responding.

All three spoke highly of the U.S. military, but both former Sen. George LeMieux and former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner excluded mention of the military’s commander in chief.

Haridopolos, on the other hand, repeatedly lauded President Barack Obama. At the opening of Monday’s state Senate session, he praised the U.S. military for its efforts and said, “Justice has been served.

“I also want to applaud our commander in chief, our president, Barack Obama. Job well done. Job well done,” Haridopolos said to a standing ovation in the state Senate chamber. “We applaud the president for his efforts.”

Hasner, who has been attempting to position himself to the right of his Republican opponents, avoided mentioning the president in a 400-word note posted on Facebook late Sunday. He took a broader view, praising military and intelligence professionals and writing that their “fight is not over tonight, nor will it be over for many long nights to come.”

Hasner has taken a hawkish line on foreign policy since he announced his campaign on a conservative talk radio program last week. In a Facebook note Hasner posted Thursday about Hamas, he wrote, “President Barack Obama has been more hostile to Israel than any President in living memory.”

LeMieux, who was appointed to the Senate in 2009 by then-Gov. Charlie Crist, has struggled to distance himself from the former governor. Crist left the Republican Party to run for the Senate as an independent in 2010, but he lost to GOP candidate Marco Rubio, a former state Speaker.

“While this war is not over, today a chapter closes,” LeMieux said in a statement, which did not mention the president.

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