MIAMI (CBS4) – Democratic Senate nominee Kendrick Meek is denying the report that former President Bill Clinton tried to convince him to drop out of the Florida Senate race last week.
The report, posted on Politico.com, also claims that Meek agreed twice to drop out before changing his mind.
In a late evening press conference at his campaign headquarters in Miami Gardens, Meek says the report is false.
“The press report that is out there is inaccurate. President Clinton is a friend of mine, we talk all the time. Bill Clinton has done eleven events for my campaign. He has done more events for me than anyone that’s running in this cycle. To say that he asked me (to drop out) is totally false.”
Earlier tonight, Governor Charlie Crist’s campaign confirmed the accuracy of the story and the latest polls show Meek struggling to get 15 percent of the vote. CBS News and CNN have also confirmed Politico’s story as being correct.
Meek was reportedly set to endorse Crist on Tuesday before he changed his mind.
CBS4’s Michael Williams talked to Democratic sources who told him the White House would have been comfortable with Charlie Crist as the U.S. Senator from Florida, but the White House wouldn’t ask Meek to withdraw.
After the report surfaced, Congressman Meek’s campaign manager, Abe Dyk, released a statement just before 7:30 p.m. vehemently denying Politico’s story:
“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.”
Assuming all of Meek’s support transferred to Crist, it would propel Crist to victory over Republican Marco Rubio. Politico said Clinton’s argument was that Meek couldn’t win and he could “be a hero,” and stop Rubio.
The proposal came while Clinton campaigned with Meek in Florida on October 19 and 20. Clinton thought he had convinced Meek during an evening conversation in Jacksonville. However, Meek lost interest because of, as Politco reported, his wife’s belief he could still win the election.
Clinton would again speak with Meek at the end of the week and Meek again agreed to drop out. Meek was set to give Crist his endorsement and explain to voters it could save the Senate for the Democrats, according to Politico’s report.
But Meek again decided to stick it out because he would rather not be seen as a quitter than stop someone, like Rubio, who is opposed to what the Democratic Party stood for, Politico said.
“Our only focus is on uniting common-sense Democrats, independents and Republicans behind Charlie Crist because he’s the only candidate who can defeat tea party extremist Marco Rubio,” Crist spokesman Danny Kanner said in a statement.
Rumors have constantly swirled that Meek would drop out and endorse Crist, but the Congressman has always said there was no truth to the rumors.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said, “One can only imagine the response if Republican leadership tried to force out of the race – in the 11th hour – a qualified black candidate like Kendrick Meek.”
Tonight, Meek repeatedly stated he is in it until the end.
“I believe that I am in the running to the next United States senator. So I look forward to doing that. I think it is very, very important that everyone understand that I am in this race until Tuesday, 7:00 Central Standard Time and I look forward to being ther next United States Senator and i’ll meet Marco Rubio and Charlie Crist at the finish line.”