Updated: 10:58 a.m.
State Senate President Mike Haridopolos dropped out of the Florida Senate race Monday morning, citing conflicting responsibilities between his state Senate duties and his run to take on Sen. Bill Nelson (D).
“Today, I am announcing that I will no longer be a candidate for the United States Senate, nor will I seek any other office this year or next. Instead, I am re-dedicating myself to finishing the job you sent me to do here in Florida,” the Republican wrote in an email to supporters.
With his departure, the GOP field hoping to unseat Nelson is down to four. The announced candidates running in the Republican primary are: former Sen. George LeMieux (Fla.), former Florida House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, former Army Col. Mike McCalister and former Ruth’s Chris CEO Craig Miller.
Haridopolos raised a whopping $2.6 million in the first quarter and more than $900,000 in the second quarter of this year.
One GOP consultant’s early take was that Haridopolos’ exit could be a boon to Hasner.
“The race between Hasner and LeMieux looks like a lot more like Rubio and Crist,” said Orlando-based Republican strategist Phil Vangelakos, referring to the 2010 Senate battle between now-Sen. Marco Rubio (R) and then-Gov. Charlie Crist, who left the Republican Party and ran as an Independent. He noted that if Miller didn’t prove to be a major candidate, the head-to-head battle between Hasner, who has worked to position himself as the grass-roots conservative, and LeMieux, who served as Crist’s chief of staff and was appointed by Crist to the Senate, would help Hasner’s messaging.
“The narrative is much clearer now. I think it helps Hasner. There is a story to be told about LeMieux’s connections with Crist,” said Vangelakos, who is unaffiliated in the Senate primary. “The more Hasner is able to play that narrative up, the more that works to his benefit.”
Crist became politically toxic to GOP voters in Florida after he bolted the party when it became clear he couldn’t beat Rubio in the primary.