|Democratic Fla. Sen Candidate Kendrick Meek: Al Diaz/Miami Herald|
Democratic Senate candidate Kendrick Meek's mentor and most important political ally, former President Bill Clinton, urged him last week to quit the race to block Republican frontrunner Marco Rubio from winning and helping his party take over the Senate, according to a Clinton spokesman.
The stunning development, which was first reported by Politico, was confirmed in an e-mail late Thursday to the Herald/Times by Clinton spokesman Matt McKenna. The story broke hours after a Quinnipiac University poll showed Meek with only 15 percent of the vote and Gov. Charlie Crist just seven percentage points behind Rubio, with 42 percent.
Crist, a former Republican running as an independent, has been trying to squeeze Meek out of the race for weeks. He told Keith Olbermann of MSNBC Thursday night that he doesn't expect Meek to quit. Asked how he knew about the conversation between Meek and Clinton, Crist said, ``Because I had numerous phone calls with people very close to President Clinton. It's true.''
The Meek campaign fervently denied that he had considered leaving the race. Politico reported that Meek and Clinton spoke in Jacksonville, but Meek's campaign manager Abe Dyk said they were never together in that city last week. Clinton and Meek campaigned together Tuesday in St. Petersburg and Wednesday in Orlando.
``The article is not true,'' Dyk said in a statement. ``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.''
The Rubio campaign was also dismissive.
``Charlie Crist truly will say and do anything to get elected and hold on to power,'' said Rubio's senior strategist, Todd Harris. ``Secret deals to trade away principles for power is already the problem in Washington, its not the solution. This is simply politics as usual which is exactly what voters across the country are emphatically rejecting this election.''
(Click here to read the full story on the Miami Herald website.)