Representative Connie Mack IV, Republican of Florida is not alone among members of Congress in having spent much of his life as a feckless mediocrity. As long as there is a Kennedy who aspires to public service, this will always be true. But where the Kennedys balance their barfing-in-boat-shoes escapades with a certain patrician pomp, Mack's Sunburned Nightmare Parrothead Hellraiser routine was uniquely Floridian, right down to a stint as a Special Events Coordinator for Hooters. None of this, of course, disqualifies Mack—his (amazing) full name, like that of the Hall of Fame manager who is his great-grandfather, is Cornelius McGillicuddy— from holding the office of United States Senator. Especially in Florida, where all campaign narratives are ghost-written by Carl Hiassen. If Mack hadn't spent much of his pre-political life heatedly disagreeing with nightclub bouncers and yielding to road rage, he wouldn't even deserve to be a candidate. Florida Republicans would just back David Wells or Brother Marquis from 2 Live Crew or something. Forget it Jake, etc.
But, but all this has become a campaign issue nonetheless, thanks to the work of Mack's opponent for the Republican nomination, George LeMieux. "Mack’s history was first reported when he ran for Congress in 2004, but a statewide race means further scrutiny," Alex Pareene writes at Salon. "And the incidents are certainly worthy of further scrutiny, because they are basically straight out of 'Eastbound and Down.'" Pareene is very correct, but one of these is much closer to "Eastbound and Down" than others. It's the one in which not-yet-Rep. Connie Mack IV gets into a fight with Ron Gant at an Atlanta nightclub in 1992, loses, breaks his ankle, sues Gant, wins and then is awarded no monetary damages.
Gant, in 1992, was an All-Star with the Atlanta Braves. Mack, who was then 24 years old, was just an unsuspecting guy who'd been drilling Jagermeister and beers all night—a waitress claimed Mack had bought "around 20" shots and beers at the bar over five hours; Mack, in the suit he filed against Gant, had her off by 18 or so drinks—at an Atlanta bar named Calico Jack's. Stories vary as to how Mack ended his evening in a headlock, pounding away at Gant's testicles.
Mack's version, per the Associated Press story linked above, is this: "Mack used Gant's table to sign a credit card receipt while getting ready to leave. Gant shoved Mack twice. The second time, he was hurled toward a crowd, which pushed him back. As he was thrust forward toward Gant, Mack braced for a fall and Gant got him in a headlock. He struck Gant in the groin area in an attempt to free himself, fearing he might be choked to death."
Gant's version, also per the AP, is different: "Gant said Mack bumped him three times and refused to get out of the way as Gant was trying to get to his table. Gant pushed Mack aside and Mack then tried to tackle him. They fell to the ground and tussled until a bouncer pulled Gant off Mack." (The waitress, for what it's worth, backed Gant's version of events, and described Mack as "drunk and obnoxious")
This isn't the first this story has come to light, and Craig Calcaterra's February assessment—"If you live in Florida and you want a Senator who is unafraid to grab a ballplayer’s junk in a bar fight, Connie Mack should get your vote"—remains sort of the last word on the whole affair. But the angle that most analysts seem to be missing seems especially salient to me—for all that LeMieux is pushing this story in the campaign, he seems unaware of the degree to which it helps his opponent that Mack was prone to Florida-ing Out long before he decided he wanted to represent Florida in Washington. This sort of behavior is called "authenticity," and unless LeMieux gets some of it himself—say, by being pulled over in an Excursion with over-tinted windows, at which point police officers discover LeMieux, Reggie Bush, Jose Canseco, Pitbull and an actual pitbull sharing a blunt—he will lose. He'll deserve it, too.