The Wall Street Journal dropped a bomb of a rumor today, reporting that Democrat Kendrick Meek might drop out of the Senate race in Florida in order to shore up Independent opponent Charlie Crist's chances of beating the GOP's Marco Rubio, who's soared in recent polls. When Crist, Florida's current governor, switched from a Republican to an independent registration once it became clear that Rubio had a lock on the GOP nomination, observers thought the two men could split the Republican vote and give Democrats a shot at the seat.
As the three-way campaign has worn on, however, the splitting has occurred in reverse--Crist and Meek have been peeling voters from each other while Rubio has built what's started to seem like an impenetrable lead.
One day after a new poll showed Meek and Crist with mutually defeating blocs of the vote, the Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore reports that GOP leaders in Florida have been buzzing about a potential Meek withdrawal. Moore's sourcing, however, is scarce:
One Republican Party leader tells me he wouldn't be surprised to hear suddenly that "Meek was offered an ambassadorship from Barack Obama." In late September, under pressure from black leaders in Florida, Vice President Biden was sent to stump for the four-term House member, but local Democrats have long doubted the depth of the White House's commitment to the party's candidate.
Now the murmur among Democrats in favor of switching to Mr. Crist is rising again. We'll find out soon, as one GOP county chairman told me, whether Dems finally prefer "to win with Charlie than lose with Meeks."
While this election season has harbored enough surprises that no developments should be ruled out, this rumor seems a bit far-fetched for now. Meek held a conference call with reporters yesterday announcing an endorsement from the Veterans of Foreign Wars PAC and reiterating his commitment to the race. He delivered a rousing performance in a three-way debate on Wednesday and angrily rejected an endorsement from the Sierra Club yesterday after the group announced that they would be backing both Meek and Crist.
In response to today's rumor, Meek's campaign issued the following statement:
When told The Wall Street Journal had published a rumor he would drop out of the Florida senate race, Kendrick Meek laughed out loud.
"I'm taking a stand against the radical right. Marco Rubio has always been the Tea Party candidate and yesterday Charlie Crist says he wants to crash the Tea Party, too. I'm the only candidate who's fighting for the middle class and I'm not going anywhere except the United States Senate," Meek said.
"If you want to stop the privatization of Social Security and Medicare, stop more tax cuts for the wealthy, stop more special interest tax breaks, stop more environmental destruction and stop more jobs being shipped overseas, I'm asking you to take a stand with me.
"Because if they want to go back to the Bush years, they're going to have to go through this six foot three inch former state trooper."