Tales from the Trail

Meek stays in Florida Senate race despite Clinton overtures

October 29, 2010

This much is clear. Democrat Kendrick Meek is not dropping out of Florida’s three-way Senate race.

What’s not so clear is what happened before Meek summoned reporters to his campaign headquarters for a late evening news conference Thursday to deny reports former President Bill Clinton had asked him to quit the race.

Singling out a report by Politico.com, the Florida congressman said, “Any rumor or any statement by anyone that says that I made a decision to get out of the race is inaccurate, at best.”

Politico.com reported that Clinton nearly succeeded in talking Meek out of the race before the candidate changed his mind.

According to Politico, Meek would have agreed to drop out and endorse Governor Charlie Crist, who might then have a better shot at winning in a two-way contest with former state House speaker Marc Rubio, a Tea Party favorite.

“His (Meek’s) withdrawal, polls suggest, would throw core Democratic voters to the moderate governor, rocking a complicated three-way contest and likely throwing the election to Crist,” Politico said.

Crist is running as an independent, after losing the Republican primary to Rubio.

Clinton told  CNN that  he had indeed talked to Meek . “He was trying to think about what was the best thing for Florida,” Clinton said of Meek.

Crist also confirmed that something had been up.

“We had several discussions and conversations with people very  close to the former president and it was in play,” Crist said on Fox News.

“Those conversations did take place… they began a little over a week ago,” Crist said. He added that Meek initially had agreed to quit to “do what was right, I guess in the president’s opinion … stop a right-wing radical, if you will, from getting elected to the U.S. Senate.”

Before Meek’s attempt to make it all go away with his news conference, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele entered the fray with a comment on Clinton’s involvement.

“President Clinton’s action sends a chilling signal to all voters, but especially African-Americans. One can only imagine the response if Republican leadership tried to force out of the race — in the 11th hour — a qualified black candidate like Kendrick Meek,” Steele said in a statement.

CORRECTS day of Meek’s press conference to Thursday.

Photo credit: Reuters/Hans Deryk (Meek, Crist, Rubio before a debate, Sept. 17)

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