"He brings a platform from which to raise money," said Navarro. "He brings statewide positive name ID and he brings a reservoir of good will and loyalty towards the Mack name."
But Mack is not without his weaknesses, the most glaring of which is immigration
and border security. His criticism of Arizona's controversial immigration measure won't sit well with some conservatives. Some Republicans, however, counter that Mack's opposition to the Arizona measure can be chalked up more as a freedom/government overreach issue than an immigration matter.
Fundraising is another question mark. Many donors sat on the sidelines last quarter, as all of the candidates struggled to raise money. On the Democratic side, Sen. Bill Nelson
boasts a $7.5 million war chest.
Mack only has about $350,000 on hand, but he has the ability to build a bigger bank account. After he decided earlier this year that he wasn't running, he endorsed state Senate President Mike Haridopolos
, who boasted strong early fundraising numbers, but ended up leaving the race.
"It seems to me like Adam [Hasner] is raising more money in the state and George [LeMieux] is raising more money out of D.C. Now Connie is someone who can do both," said Jamie Miller
, a GOP consultant and former executive director of the state party.
Finally, the perch from which Mack has cultivated a profile appealing to many Republicans, his seat in Congress -- where he is chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee -- may also be something that could come back to hurt him, at a time when being a Washington politician isn't viewed favorably.
"Let me be the first to welcome Congressman Connie Mack to Senate race. He knows first-hand from his many years working with the Washington establishment how broken our government is," said McCalister on Thursday.
The bottom line is this: Mack has generated a new-found excitement in a party presented with a legitimate pickup opportunity that many worried would go to waste. We'll see in the coming months what he does with that chance.