Former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux is dropping out of this year's Senate race in Florida, campaign says

Former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux announced Wednesday he is quitting the Florida Senate race, all but guaranteeing Rep. Connie Mack the nomination.

In an e-mail to supporters, LeMieux acknowledged the establishment had thrown their support behind Mack.

"While our campaign has been strong, gaining support and winning straw polls, the decision has been made by party leadership that there is a better candidate to face Bill Nelson," LeMieux said in a release.

LeMieux, who has criticized the Fort Myers congressman for skipping three televised debates, said his campaign could not match Mack's widespread name recognition without  the opportunity to debate on statewide television.

"Without the resources or the opportunity to debate, our message simply cannot be heard," LeMieux said.

The Republican race to take on Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) in November produced a series of ugly exchanges between the two rivals, with LeMieux attacking Mack's past financial woes, residency questions and missed votes.  Mack's campaign has repeatedly  tied LeMieux to unpopular former Gov. Charlie Crist, who appointed LeMieux to the Senate in 2009 to complete the term after Mel Martinez resigned.

LeMieux endorsed his adversary at the end of the video, saying: "Connie Mack will be our nominee. He has my support."

Former  U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon and retired Army Col. Mike McCalister, both long-shots, will now face Mack in the August primary.