When writing the earlier post, I completely forgot that Crist was doing an interview tonight on, er, “national” cable news. So that explains the timing of this story — they coordinated it so that Crist would have a large-ish platform to broadcast the fact that Meek is (allegedly) having doubts about his candidacy. If you’re trying to sandbag him and peel away Democratic base voters in Florida, what better chance to do it than during a chat with the left’s most highly rated ranting clown?
Reaction from Rubio, who’s doubtless been waiting for this for a long time:
“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. This is simply politics as usual which is exactly what voters across the country are emphatically rejecting this election.”
Facts Of Note:
* As of today, more than 1.7 million Floridians have already voted – approximately 1/3 of all likely voters (4.8 million Floridians voted in 2006, the last midterm election).
* There is not a single public poll which shows Crist leading Rubio in a hypothetical two-way race.
* As of yesterday, our internal tracking showed Crist and Meek in a statistical dead heat.
* Among those who have already voted, our internal polling actually shows Meek beating Crist 28% to 24%.
Reaction from Michael Steele:
If we have learned anything this election cycle, it’s that voters demand the right to choose candidates for themselves, not by a political establishment seeking to make those decisions from on high. President Clinton’s actions to have Kendrick Meek withdraw from the campaign sends a chilling signal to all voters, but especially African Americans. 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.
And, most importantly, reaction from Meek:
“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.”
Earlier I thought the leak might lead him to bow out over the weekend if it looked like his supporters were starting to defect to Crist, but now I’m thinking that maybe he’ll be so irritated by the way they set him up here that he’ll stick it out just to screw Crist on election day. If he follows Steele’s lead by innocently wondering aloud why a “qualified black candidate” is being muscled out of the race by a white (well, orange) candidate, I’ll wet my pants again — with joy. Click the image to watch.
Update: A hastily called presser, just concluded. Money quote: “I am in this race until Tuesday.” I don’t know how Crist wins now, but we’ll see what happens to Meek’s polling over the next day or two.
Update: Who ordered the Code Red on Kendrick Meek? Sounds like it was 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Click the image to watch.
Update: My mistake — when I first watched the clip of Crist with Olby, I thought he was saying he had personally had discussions with Meek about dropping out. (That’s what the Daily Caller suggested a few days ago.) What he’s actually saying is that Clinton and Meek had those discussions, not he and Meek — and in fact, Clinton has confirmed it. Apologies for the error. As for the White House’s involvement in all this, here’s a new detail via Marc Ambinder:
So when it becomes clear that Crist’s shtick ain’t working, and Marco Rubio is set to be the next senator of Florida, Crist calls up former President Clinton’s fixer, Doug Band, whom he knows not very well, and asks him to ask President Clinton to send out feelers to Kendrick Meek. If Meek drops, Crist will caucus with the Democrats if he wins.
President Clinton makes sure the White House is aware of Crist’s intentions. The White House becomes aware. The WORST kept secret in Florida politics is that the White House tried to get Clinton to do this several months ago. At the time, Clinton told the White House to stick it where the sun don’t shine. He has real affection for Meek.
Update: Crist’s spokesman says Crist never asked the White House for help on this and the White House never offered to help. Or at least, not recently; see the Ambinder quote directly above. Says Ben Smith:
My own reporting and Greg Sargent’s bear this out: Clinton was the actor here, and while the White House might have liked to see Meek out of the race they did not — unlike in the case of Joe Sestak — ask Clinton to intervene, take an active role, or offer Meek any sort incentive or reward.
I can sort of buy that just because they took so much heat over trying to bribe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff out of the Democratic primaries in Pennsylvania and Colorado. Maybe they figured after that firestorm that it’s best to stay out of these things and let other party bigwigs take the lead. Especially since Obama needs Florida in 2012 and can’t afford any missteps that would alienate the Democratic base.