Former President Bill Clinton urged U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek to drop out of Florida’s three-way Senate race – a move that would in theory tip more Democrats toward Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running as an independent against Republican tea party favorite Marco Rubio. According to Politico
, Clinton visited Meek last week in an effort to get him to leave the race.
Meek agreed twice to drop out and endorse Crist at a rally but somehow the deal could not be closed, according to Politico.
But late Thursday, Meek forcefully denied all aspects of the story at a hastily called press conference. A Crist campaign spokesman, meanwhile, told the Associated Press that the story was accurate.
"The president came down to do an event for me in Orlando and St. Petersburg. We talk politics all the time. He said I heard this thing about you getting out. I said, 'I'm not getting out.' I said Charlie Crist needs to get out of the race. And that was that," Meek said.
"The whole thing about a chartered plane is untrue. The whole thing about a rally planned is untrue. This whole thing, I don't know where it came from. I know the discussions I had with the president wasn't about some sort of wrapped deal with me getting out of the race. I'm not getting out the race," Meek said.
When asked whether it was true that he confirmed twice to Clinton that he would get out, Meek said: "Not true. Absolutely not true. That's just where it is. That's not the case."
Clinton, meanwhile, acknowledged to CNN that he had a conversation with Meek. Clinton said Meek wanted to talk to him about it because he was concerned that Meek and Crist would split the progressive vote. CNN said Clinton said it was Meek's idea to discuss it and he denies discussing the idea with the White House.
Meek was "trying to decide what to do and I talked to him and I told him that -- we went through everything," Clinton told CNN. "We talked about it a couple times and I said in the end, you know, you have to do what he thought was right ... what he felt best about, felt right about."
Clinton added: "I think in terms of what I said to him and what he said to me -- since he's my friend and he's the candidate and he wanted us to talk as we always have, I have to let him say whatever he wants to say about our conversation ... it would be wrong for me to discuss it."
Meek, the son of former Rep. Carrie Meek, a icon among Democrats in South Florida – has consistently ranked third in polls leading up to next Tuesday’s election. One survey Thursday showed him with just 15 percent of the vote. Republican turncoat Crist dropped out of the GOP primary earlier this year when polls showed Rubio ahead by double digits.
Rubio, who has become a national star among grass-root conservatives, has a strong lead in the three-way contest. RealClearPolitics gave Rubio a 10.8-point lead Thursday night in its daily average of the major polls. But Meek’s withdrawal would, in theory, tip many liberals toward Crist. Some Florida pundits, though, have suggested that African-Americans may stay home in South Florida if one of their favorite sons is betrayed by Democrats.
But it's also important to keep in mind that early voting is underway in the Sunshine State, and an estimated 1.7 million residents have already cast their ballots.
Politico reported that Clinton’s top aide, Doug Band, first broached the idea to Meek on the former president’s behalf in a negotiation with Crist. Clinton became involved only when Meek signaled that he would seriously consider the option, Clinton spokesman Matt McKenna confirmed to Politico.
“The argument was: ‘You can be a hero here. You can stop him, you can change this race in one swoop,’” a Democrat familiar with the conversations told Politico. Clinton apparently told Meek that he had no chance of winning.
Politico is reporting that no promises of future jobs were made to Meek, who gave up a safe House seat to run for the Senate, but instead made the case that the move would advance the congressman’s future prospects.
Clinton campaigned with Meek in Florida on Oct. 19 and 20, and thought he had won Meek over, Politico reported. But Meek “lost his enthusiasm for the arrangement, spurred in part, a third Democratic source said, by his wife’s belief that he could still win the race. Clinton spoke with Meek again at week’s end, three Democrats said, and again Meek said he would drop out.”
A rally was even schedule on Oct. 26 for the announcement. “The Crist, Meek and Clinton camps even set a date for an endorsement rally: the following Tuesday, Oct. 26. Meek was to give Crist his blessing and explain to his disappointed supporters — many of whom deeply distrust the governor, who was elected as a Republican — that their votes could save the Senate for the Democrats and save America from the rise of Rubio, who is viewed both as a hard-line conservative and a potential national figure.”
President Barack Obama apparently had no clue that the negotiations were going on.
At stake is control of the nation’s fourth largest state, Florida, which has a Hispanic population that tilts Republican because of the sheer number of Cubans, many of whom belong to families that fled the Communist-controlled island nation.
A surge of voters on behalf of Crist could also tilt the polls in the governor’s race, where Republican Rick Scott is polls several points ahead of Democrat Alex Sink.
© 2017 Newsmax. All rights reserved.