Former Sen. George LeMieux ended his bid for a return trip to the Senate on Wednesday, announcing his decision in a video sent to supporters.
Lemieux endorsed Rep. Connie Mack, the frontrunner for the GOP nomination, at the end of the video, but not before blaming his departure from the race on Mack's decision not to participate in primary debates.
"It is not my nature to step aside, but there is a reality to running a statewide race in Florida," LeMieux says in the video. "Without the resources or the opportunity to debate, our message simply cannot be heard."
Since entering the race last year, LeMieux has struggled to raise money while remaining mired in the single digits in the polls. Opponents have linked him to former Gov. Charlie Crist, who remains very unpopular with GOP activists since he left the party during his 2010 race against Sen. Marco Rubio. LeMieux, a former Crist chief of staff, was appointed to the Senate by then-Gov. Crist when former Sen. Mel Martinez resigned in 2009.
LeMieux's withdrawal leaves former Rep. Dave Weldon and retired Army Col. Mike McCalister as Mack's main competition for the GOP nomination. Weldon entered the race in May, citing a lack of a conservative alternative to Mack in the field.
Mack is expected to easily advance out of the Aug. 14 primary, setting up a November match-up with Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.