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His polling numbers are weak, he recently said he wouldn’t run in the next election if “there’s somebody who would do as equal or better job,” and now outgoing Sen. George LeMieux has taken a top position with his former law firm.
Still think he’s among the likeliest contenders to challenge Sen. Bill Nelson in 2012? We’re not so sure.
Next week, LeMieux will formally return to Gunster, one of Florida’s “oldest and largest full-service business law firms,” where the Florida Republican will become a shareholder and serve as chairman of the board of directors, according to an announcement released this week by the firm.
“Gunster’s attorneys and clients are at the center of many of the critical issues facing Florida,” LeMieux said in a statement included in the firm’s announcement. “I look forward to making meaningful contributions to help those efforts, and to help Gunster expand throughout Florida.”
LeMieux, appointed by former Gov. Charlie Crist to replace Sen. Mel Martinez in 2009, will be replaced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R) when the new Congress is sworn in Tuesday. On the same day, LeMieux will begin his new role with Gunster, where he will “resume his legal practice and provide corporate counseling to the firm’s clients” in addition to leading the firm’s “strategic plan to expand to every major business center in Florida.”
While the move does not rule out a Senate bid in 2012, leading such an expansion at a major law firm and trying to unseat an incumbent Senator at the same time could prove difficult — especially as other potential Republican challengers are emerging.
Asked by the Palm Beach Post earlier in the month about what factors would influence his decision, LeMieux sounded like someone preparing to step aside. “If I feel that there’s somebody who would do as equal or better job than me for our country, then it would be smarter for me to step aside and allow me to spend more time with my four kids who are 7 and under.”
Should LeMieux decide to challenge Nelson, one of the last Democrats to hold statewide office among a sea of Florida Republicans, recent polling suggests it might not be easy to win a Republican primary nomination.
Nelson leads LeMieux 47 percent to 36 percent in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup, according to a mid-December survey of 1,034 Florida voters taken by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling.
But perhaps more troubling for the outgoing Senator is another PPP sample of GOP voters. Former Gov. Jeb Bush, who has indicated he will not challenge Nelson, is by far their favorite candidate. When Bush is excluded from a pool of potential candidates, just 11 percent of Florida Republicans selected LeMieux as their favorite.
Pollster Tom Jensen wrote that LeMieux has shown “continued incredible weakness ... in pretty much all polling.”