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In swing state of Florida, key Senate race heats up with Keystone vote

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Florida will certainly be a swing state in the 2012 race for U.S. president. However, in the General Election, a key U.S. Senate seat is in play and Republicans just received a gift of sorts from incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D).

Asked to respond to Nelson’s ‘nay’ vote on the Keystone XL Pipeline, Lenny Curry, chair of the Republican Party of Florida, told Examiner it was a matter of Nelson and other Democrats continuing to “put politics first.”

On Thursday Nelson joined 41 other Democrats to vote ‘nay’ on proceeding with the pipeline. The senator maneuvered in hopes of deflecting fallout in advance of the vote by telling The Tampa Bay Times he would vote against the Pipeline but for “a Democratic amendment that would ban any exports.”

Nelson didn’t comment on the fact the Democrats’ amendment S. 1817, introduced by one of their own, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, would more closely fit a socialist economy than a free market. Most political observers on both sides of the aisle predicted the Wyden bill would fail and it did.

The Republicans’ amendment, S. 1537, introduced by Sen. John Hoeven (N.D.) actually gained a plurality of votes—56 ‘ayes’ to ‘42’ nays. The amendment needed 60 votes to pass.

Florida Federation of Republican Women President Cindy Graves told Examiner Nelson’s ‘nay’ vote showed a “continuing lack of leadership,” and she called it a “lock-step vote” against the creation of jobs.

Graves will be a key force in marshaling support and volunteers for the Republican who opposes Nelson in November, and it’s evident Keystone isn’t the only failure she sees in the senator who has served in that body since 2000.

“During Bill Nelson's time in Washington he has failed to distinguish himself or take on the big issues facing Americans, as witnessed by his failures with both the Mayport Nuclear Aircraft Carrier and the space program in here in Florida,” she said.

Commenting on Nelson and other Democrats’ ongoing effort to attract female voters, Graves was typically blunt. “Clearly, Bill Nelson joins his president in hoping Florida women are so distracted by the community organizing efforts of the imaginary ‘war on women’ that we fail to notice the continuous job killing economic efforts of this administration.”

Graves added that women are paying attention, pointing to “the surge in record numbers of Republican voter registrations here in Florida, and the return of loyal GOP donors en masse, resulting in record-setting fundraising numbers released by the RNC on Friday.”

At the moment, three Republicans are battling for the right to oppose Nelson. Each contender polls within striking distance of the Democrat, according to Rasmussen. Even newcomer to politics Col. Mike McCalister polled within 6 points of him in a Rasmussen Poll dated Feb. 13.

On the same date, Rasmussen found Nelson ahead of former Sen. George LeMieux by only 10 points. U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV tied with Nelson.

RPOF chair Curry said Nelson’s vote against the Keystone project “put the liberal ‘Obama Agenda’ before the needs of hard-working Floridians. Democrats in Washington continue to put politics first and as a result, have sacrificed tens of thousands of new jobs while doing nothing to end the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.”

Hoeven attempted to garner support for his amendment by telling fellow senators and media the pipeline would transport 830,000 barrels of oil per day to U.S. refineries, including 100,000 barrels a day of North Dakota crude. Hoeven said the $7 billion dollar project would be a private sector jobs creator.

“With gas prices continuing to climb and unemployment still above 8 percent,” said Curry, “Americans truly cannot afford for Sen. Nelson and his fellow Democrats to continue to play these political games.”

The Washington Post said a Quinnipiac poll taken Feb. 23 found voters support the Keystone Pipeline by a 64- to 23-percent margin.

Eleven Democrats supported the Hoeven amendment, and additional support for Keystone came from an expected source—former President Bill Clinton. Acknowledging benefits in the form of federal revenues, Clinton said he thought “we should embrace it.”

(Follow Day on Twitter: @TheUSReport.)

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