And Hasner may be less hawkish than LeMieux. When asked about U.S. involvement in Libya, LeMieux replies, “I support our action in Libya. Qaddafi should go. He has killed Americans. But we should get congressional authority to support the action in Libya. I think the president’s acting unconstitutionally.”
Hasner, meanwhile, is dubious: “From the very beginning, I opposed President Obama’s taking us into war in Libya. He’s spending money that I don’t believe is in the best interest of our national security, and we don’t have a plan for victory.”
When asked whether we should withdraw from Libya, Hasner responds, “Once you’ve committed troops to a mission, it’s the president’s job to define victory. I would put pressure on him to make that decision, and if he continues to be unwilling, then you have to look at the issue of how do you safely and carefully withdraw American troops from the mission.”
Hasner has positioned himself as a fiscal hawk, if not a national-security one. “I was the first candidate in the country to sign the ‘Cut, Cap, and Balance plan,” he says. LeMieux, for his part, reminds NRO that while in office he proposed freezing federal spending at 2007 levels. “We’d balance the budget in two years,” he says.
Conservative activists have been taking to Hasner. Last week, he spoke at the Reagan Day Dinner in the politically important Pasco County. “He was very well received,” says Bill Bunting, the county’s state GOP committeeman. (Bunting also notes LeMieux didn’t attend the dinner but sent a check to curry favor with the party apparatchiks.)
And conservatives don’t seem to be flocking to the two other candidates in the race, businessman Craig Miller and Col. Mike McCalister.
Miller, former chief executive of Ruth’s Chris Steak House, says he would have voted for “Cut, Cap, and Balance,” believes the U.S. should get rid of Qaddafi, and argues for more free-trade deals. “I would have been with that freshman class,” he tells NRO.
McCalister would have voted against any increase in the debt ceiling, laments the fact that the NATO treaty precludes us from withdrawing from Libya, and is amenable to abolishing the Department of Education. He also believes the U.S. should focus more on protecting its intellectual property from Chinese copycats. “Nobody’s talking about that, but it’s a serious issue,” he says.
Still, both are failed candidates from 2010 — Miller for Congress, McCalister for the governorship — and so far haven’t caught fire among the grassroots.
Most political prognosticators see the race narrowing to LeMieux and Hasner. But it’s unclear who’s the true-blue conservative in the race. Even Rubio himself has declined to endorse a candidate.
“Marco Rubio’s campaign was at the right time, in the right place, in the right circumstances,” says Tom DiMatteo, the GOP state committeeman for Pinellas County. “This cycle is 180 degrees different.”
— Brian Bolduc is a William F. Buckley Fellow at the National Review Institute.
Editor’s Note: This article has been amended since its original posting.