MIAMI, Fla.- Former President Bill Clinton, who has been a staunch public supporter of Florida Senate candidate Rep. Kendrick Meek, purportedly tried to persuade Meek to drop out of the race while campaigning for the Democrat last week in Florida. According to Politico, Meek agreed twice to drop out and endorse independent candidate Gov. Charlie Crist, a former Republican, after Clinton said it was the best way to beat, and stop the trajectory of rising Republican star, Marco Rubio, who is leading the 3- way race. Each time, Meek changed his mind.
Crist spokesman Danny Kanner, stepping on the heels of the Politico story, immediately put out a statement saying that it was "accurate."
In an interview with Greta Van Susteren tonight, Crist said that the reports were accurate and that Crist had talked to "somebody at the White House" and "Mr. Band," referring to Doug Band, one of President Clinton's closest advisors. The Independent candidate for Senate also told Van Susteren that he had spoken to Meek about the issue because "what's right for Florida and trying to do what's right for America is stopping Marco Rubio from being U.S. Senator for Florida."
Immediately after the first reports, the Meek campaign issued a statement that bluntly described the story as "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," Meek Campaign Manager Abe Dyk said in a release. "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."
At a press conference later in the evening, Meek personally said that the press reports were "totally false" and "inaccurate at best." He affirmed his friendship with President Clinton, whose wife, Hillary Clinton, Meek endorsed in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, saying that "we're good friends" and that they talk all the time. The Democratic nominee for Senate reaffirmed his commitment to the race, declaring that he was in the race until Tuesday.
Crist and Meek have been trailing Rubio by as much as double-digits in recent polls, but combined, their supporters beats Rubio's advantage. Today a new Quinnipiac poll put Meek at 15 percentage points but showed Crist within striking distance with 7 points behind Rubio, 45-36 among likely voters.
Earlier Thursday, Fox News caught up with Crist while campaigning at a diner in Aventura, Fla., and asked him to explain Quinnipiac's poll results."What's going on is they are realizing and waking up. They don't want a right-wing radical as a U.S. Senator, " Crist said, "If you want to defeat a right wing radical Right candidate like Marco Rubio, we have to unite those of us of common-sense and moderation. Common sense Republicans, Democrats, and independents must unite in order to defeat Marco Rubio."
"Charlie Crist truly will say and do anything to get elected and hold on to power. Secret deals to trade away principles for power is already the problem in Washington, it's not the solution." Rubio Senior Strategist Todd Harris said in a late statement about the Politico story. " This is simply politics as usual which is exactly what voters across the country are emphatically rejecting this election."