It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Congressman Kendrick Meek. Despite beating back a billionaire primary challenger, and carrying 528,000 voters with him toward November, the Democratic nominee finds himself the target of intensifying drop-out rumors, which have morphed into drop-out requests from fellow Democrats (and some bloggers.) The Democratic Party’s damage control efforts aren’t working. His polling has stalled at around 21 percent, and now, Charlie Crist is breaking out the Kennedys. If you’re Kendrick Meek, it’s enough to make you want to holler. But while the media can’t resist the frenzy of drop-out mania, there are good reasons why Democrats should, and worse, why any vocal attempts to push Meek out of the race are damned near suicidal.
Five reasons why:
1. He’s not dropping out. There’s not a shred of evidence that he ever was, and my own sourcing tells me there’s no way, no how, that a guy who sees himself as having been a fighter his whole life, would turn tail and quit the Senate race two weeks before early voting starts. For that matter, President Obama
2. He couldn’t drop out if he wanted to. Hello? Is this thing on??? The ballots are printed, folks. His name is right there in second place (and Charlie Crist’s is way down in ninth, right there between Rick Tyler and some guy named Lewis Armstrong. The drop-out talk ignores reality. And besides that, it’s not good politics. For the reasons why, let’s move on to reason number…
3. The guy won the freaking primary - From a standpoint of basic fairness, Meek is entitled to see this race through to the end. For gods sakes, what part of “democracy” do these Democratic insta-clubs and one-off “former Meek supporters” not understand?
Let’s just keep it real. Kendrick Meek hasn’t lost the condos. He never had them. Anybody who’s been paying attention knows that Meek’s support has always been iffy in Jeff Greene County (sorry, Palm Beach County) — where Charlie Crist has set up a beachhead, with the help of Team Wexler, among Democrats who haven’t been crazy about Meek from the get-go. The constant threats of “he’d better show me something or I’m backing Crist” didn’t start last week — they started months ago, when the beef was that Meek didn’t visit enough.
4. “Dropout Democrats” are risking a serious rift with African-Americans. Sure, there are plenty of black folk in the burbs who have decided to go Crist. I know a bunch of them. And I expect Charlie to hold his 20 percent of the black vote from 2006, almost without even trying. But that leaves the vast majority of African-Americans who vote this cycle likely to be pulling for Meek. What message does it send to the most loyal base of the Democratic Party, who are crucial in the urban strongholds around Jacksonville, Miami and fort Lauderdale, that leaders of their party are goading the black nominee to drop out and clear the way for the former Republican governor when the going gets tough? The polls say Russ Feingold is losing too, should he drop out? Blanche Lincoln is getting pasted in Arkansas, is there an indie we can throw in to replace her?
Just for a second, do this thought experiment with me: you’re being told that Kendrick Meek — the official winner of the Democratic primary, should quit the race a week before early voting begins, swallow his pride and endorse his opponent who didn’t even win a primary. Worse still, maybe he should accept some totem appointment from the White House in exchange for giving up his right to run. Now, do that though experiment again, only you’re African-American, and you’re old enough to remember what it’s like to be told what you can’t do. Just stop, Democrats, before you wake up and find that a good chunk of your base skipped the election this year. And that brings us to the Big, Fat Bottom Line:
4. Talk of pushing Meek out will hurt Democrats from Alex Sink on down. Quick: name the candidate or issue on the ballot, besides Kendrick Meek, that will drive black voters to the polls… crickets…? Exactly. The top of the statewide ticket is running a No-Obama campaign. The remainder are virtual unknowns. Meek is key to bringing out infrequent African-American voters, not just for himself, but for Sink and all of the races down the ticket. Keep talking about him “dropping out,” and see what kind of turnout that gets you for those races.
Look, I’ve got to hand it to whoever engineered that Wall Street Journal “scoop.” It might have been the play of the campaign, engineered to do just what it’s doing — tank Kendrick Meek by undermining his base, while feeding the media’s yearning for a piece of “hard evidence” on which to hang the Narrative that Florida is a Crist v. Rubio affair. I’m a person who respects smart, hardball politics. Make no mistake, Team Meek has been trying just as hard to end Charlie Crist as the other way around. And even if the governor isn’t personally trying to push Meek out (he’s too smart to do that) the current media feeding frenzy over phantom drop-out chum is just what Dr. Crist (the son, not the father) ordered.
I’ve been saying for months that Democrats need to make up their minds and make a choice between Crist and Meek, and do it soon. But the idea that a choice would be imposed on Meek by the media, Democratic insta-clubs, Democrats who didn’t dig him from Jump Street and some lame writer from the Club for Growth who couldn’t even fake a source or two, strikes me as just plain bad mojo. Not to mention that it makes Democrats look … well … desperate.
Voters are pretty smart. They can read the polls just like we can. Nobody is dropping out of this race. Let the Meek and Crist campaigns play out, and may the best man win.