Published: Feb 04, 2012 12:43 AM EST
Updated: Feb 04, 2012 5:46 PM EST

ESTERO, Fla.- Congressman Connie Mack met with supporters at Coconut Point Mall Friday afternoon, wrapping up a statewide campaign kickoff in his bid for U.S. Senate.

In front of a crowd of about a hundred, Mack told supporters why he wants to unseat Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, casting strong comparisons between the incumbent and President Barack Obama.

"Obama and Nelson are joined at the hip, they've been joined at the hip since the president became a senator," Mack said.

"When President Obama wanted to pass a stimulus plan, that by any measure has failed, Senator Nelson was there to help. When President Obama wanted more regulations on small business owners, Senator Nelson was there to help. We're not going to stand for that anymore in Florida."

While he would have to win the Republican primary first, polls project Mack trailing Nelson by 3 percentage points.

Some Southwest Florida voters, like Anne Brown, say Mack's message of less government and lower taxes resonates strongly with them.

"We're going in a such a mad direction today with more government, that they'll be governing everything we do from morning 'til night pretty soon," Brown said.

Since he joined the race 6 weeks ago, Mack raised roughly $758,000, not nearly as much as the $1 million-plus Nelson's campaign garnered, but enough to bolster Mack's confidence.

"We're on a good track, we'll be competitive with Senator Nelson, and we'll have the resources to spread a message that's about freedom and about protecting and respecting the citizens of the state," Mack said.

When reached for comment Friday, a campaign representative with Nelson's campaign said the senator is "just focused on doing the job he was elected to do."

"He's always felt if you do that, the politics will take of itself."