Nelson kicks off statewide campaign tour

Published: Friday, October 12, 2012 at 8:11 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, October 12, 2012 at 8:11 p.m.

SANFORD — U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson kicked off a cross-state tour Friday with singer Jimmy Buffett at his side, starting an itinerary that will take him to at least 19 stops in the last weeks of a hard-fought campaign against Republican U.S. Rep. Connie Mack.

About 100 supporters swayed and snapped cell phone photos of Buffett as he sang acoustical versions of "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere" and "Margaritaville" in a hangar at the Orlando-Sanford International Airport. Nelson and his wife, Grace, danced alongside him.

"Go support Bill Nelson and the Democrats because guess what? Florida matters," said Buffett, who was dressed in shorts, flip flops and sunglasses.

Nelson said the tour underscored his commitment to visit as many places in Florida as he can, even Republican bastions like the retirement community, The Villages, northwest of Orlando.

"I represent those who vote for me and those who don't vote for me and I represent those who don't vote at all," Nelson told reporters ahead of the rally. "I feel very good but in the same breath I take nothing for granted."

The "barnstorming" tour will take Nelson from the Florida Panhandle to South Florida in the last weeks of the campaign with only a break next Wednesday to debate Mack in South Florida.

Mack campaign spokesman David James said the Republican candidate had recently finished a 26-stop bus tour over six days.

"Off like a herd of turtles," said James, describing Nelson's tour.

Nelson has had a significant money advantage over his Republican opponent. Nelson has raised more than $16 million in contributions versus Mack's $6 million.

But Mack outraised Nelson in the quarter ending in September. Mack raised $2.7 million in the last quarter versus Nelson's $2.3 million.

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