If this is true, then this might be the leak that opens the door for Democrats to vote for Charlie Crist, and the Florida race for U.S. Senate just got real interesting again.
Major hat tip to Peter Schorsch, who alerted me to the story. I’ve been offline editing a video project, and totally missed it. But here’s the bottom line: according to Politico’s Ben Smith, who got former President Bill Clinton’s spokesman Matt McKenna on the record confirming the conversations took place … the former president confronted Meek during that big campaign swing through Florida last week with the fact that he isn’t going to win the U.S. Senate race. So Clinton, via his top aide Doug Band, began the careful process of brokering a deal for Meek to withdraw from the race.
It’s a pretty stunning development, since Meek has been confronted with calls to drop out by Democrats — including some prominent Democrats — to stop Marco Rubio, who is stuck at around 42-44 percent of the vote, from waltzing off the cover of TIME Magazine and into the Senate without even a majority. Numerous people have been urging Meek to be a hero and jet. But his people — including my own sources in the campaign, insist that he would never, will never, quit. But that’s not what Ben Smith is reporting. The meat of the matter:
The former president’s top aide, Doug Band, initially served as the intermediary between Meek and Crist, and 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,’” said another Democrat familiar with the conversations, who said Clinton had bluntly told Meek that he couldn’t win the race.
Clinton campaigned with Meek in Florida on October 19 and 20, and thought he had won Meek over in an evening conversation the night they spent together in Jacksonville. But as the week wore on, 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.
“It was a completely done deal,” one source said.
The Crist, Meek and Clinton camps even set a date for an endorsement rally: the following Tuesday, October 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.
The White House, Democrats said, had knowledge of the plans and viewed them as a path to capturing the Senate seat, but did not initiate the talks.
Last weekend, however, Meek changed his mind.
“Not being seen as a quitter was more important than stopping someone who was so opposed to what you and your party had stood for,” said one Democrat who had been hoping to close the deal. ( Read more here)
If this report is true, and make no mistake, Bill Clinton is the ONLY person who could talk Kendrick Meek out of this race, so it’s definitely plausible that he had the conversation (and based on the reaction of some inside African-American Meekworld to President Obama’s much more effusive praise of Alex Sink versus Meek on last night’s AfAm conference call, plus other things, I can totally see the White House going along with it, though they wouldn’t dare initiate it) it would represent a bombshell change in the fundamental situation Democrats are facing.
Democrats are really torn on this race. I wouldn’t be surprised if the slow start to early vote was in part, Democrats holding back and waiting until the last minute to make a decision on one of the two most important spots on the ballot (and the only one that raises a question for core Dems.) Many Dems have long wanted Meek to open the door for them to leave him by dropping out.
If he agreed to do so — and then went back on the agreement — that 15 percent he scored in the recent Quinnipiac poll will be 12, or 10, or 8 by the time the next poll comes out.
And if that happens, Marco might want to stop gallivanting around the bases and go get his bat out of the dugout, cause Charlie Crist is within single digits, and this game ain’t over.
This one’s hellafide developing…
UPDATE: the Crist campaign responds
Crist campaign spokesman Danny Kanner issued the following statement in response to press inquiries regarding this evening’s POLITICO story on the Florida Senate race:
“While this story is accurate, the Governor’s focus is on uniting common-sense Democrats, independents, and Republicans behind his campaign because he is the one candidate who can defeat Tea Party extremist Marco Rubio and deliver bipartisan results for Florida in Washington.”
So why would Meek keep going? The kindest explanation would be that he is in it to push the black vote, which helps Alex Sink and helps the rest of the Democratic ticket. Meek in the race as the highest profile African-American candidate helps on that score. It would be a serious self-sacrificing move, since Meek would no longer be in it for himself. On the downside, the story makes it look like he welched on a deal.
But again, my Meekworld sources are denying it. I just emailed the campaign to request an official response.
UPDATE 2: And now for the obligatory boilerplate, from the Meek campaign:
Miami Gardens, FL — Kendrick Meek campaign manager Abe Dyk released the following statement regarding the Politico article.
“The article is not true. Kendrick Meek was never dropping out of this race, is never dropping out of this race, and will never drop out of this race. Kendrick Meek will always stand up for the middle class and will not leave Floridians a choice between two lifelong conservative Republicans who only stand with the special interests. Kendrick is the Democratic nominee so if anyone should drop out, it’s Charlie Crist.”
And from the Florida Democratic Party spokesman Eric Jotkoff, who before now was having such a delightful time making fun of the RPOF’s legal woes:
“Kendrick Meek is the only candidate who has fought for middle class families, he is the only candidate who stood up to George W. Bush’s attempts to privatize Social Security, and is the only one who has always showed up to defend our Democratic values by standing up to the extremist Republicans. Because Kendrick Meek is the leader we need in the U.S. Senate to fight for us, the Florida Democratic Party is proud to continue fighting to elect Kendrick Meek to the U.S. Senate so he can continue working for everyday Floridians and to bring jobs to the Sunshine State,” said Eric Jotkoff, Florida Democratic Party spokesman.
I also spoke with another Meek insider, who said they were in Jacksonville with Clinton and Meek, and says they don’t know about any deals. It almost doesn’t matter. Team Meek can’t get this toothpaste back in the tube. Can’t be done.