No one in the Democratic firmament liked Jeff Greene. No one.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee openly talks him down. President Obama opposed him. The Florida Democratic Party stood against him when he entered the race. Labor unions sided against him, some of them before his entry and some after.
And now the strange and sudden campaign of billionaire Jeff Greene has come to an end: with fewer than half of Florida's precincts reporting, news outlets called the race for Congressman Kendrick Meek, the Democratic frontrunner from Miami who has been campaigning since last year.
With 41.7% of precincts reporting, Meek had taken a 55% to 32.5% lead, and Green'e strange and sudden campaign came to an end.
Greene heavily outspent Meek throughout the race, pumping over $20 million into his campaign and blanketing the radio and TV airwaves with negative ads attacking Meek as a "crooked" and "corrupt" Washington insider.
As of August 4, the last day covered by publicly available Federal Election Commission reports, Greene had spent $14.4 million to Meek's $4.6 million. News reports have placed Greene's final total at $23 million, while Meek's campaign has estimated Greene spent as much as $26 million over the course of the campaign.
Greene shook up an already chaotic race when he entered it in April, one day after Gov. Charlie Crist left the Republican Party to run as an independent. Greene's campaign was engineered by big-name strategists Joe Trippi, Doug Schoen, and Paul Blank, and he briefly surpassed Meek in polls. But Greene fired Trippi on August 1 and replaced him with former Al Gore/John Kerry campaign strategist Tad Devine, and he brought on media consultant Julian Mulvaney.
After firing Trippi, Greene's campaign tailed off, steadily losing ground in polls until he trailed by anywhere from 10 to 24 percentage points as of Monday.
Greene's campaign was marked by money, both negative and positive ads, and big-name consulting talent. According to a Florida Democratic source, Greene had to dole out large severance payments to at least one of his consultants.
While Greene entered the race only two years after moving to Florida, with zero political base there, Meek has represented Miami in Congress for four terms, having taken over the district from his mother, Carrie Meek, who retired after five terms of her own.
Fortunately for Meek, he hasn't been damaged too badly by Greene's campaign: about the same number of Floridians seem him favorably as unfavorably (25% and 24%, respectively), while 48% still haven't heard enough to make up their minds, according to Quinnipiac polling release last week.
The same poll found that, among all respondents of all parties, 18% saw Greene favorably and 31% saw him unfavorably.
When Meek entered this race, long before the rise of Marco Rubio and Gov. Charlie Crist's decision to leave the party, it appeared he would have no chance to win. Crist was popular and was expected to run away with it. Now, after a turbulent campaign season that saw Rubio force Crist out of his own party and Greene launch an unexpected, $20+ million primary campaign against him, Meek finds himself still trailing significantly.
Quinnipiac shows him at 16%, Crist at 39%, and Rubio at 38%. Meek's challenge will be to win Democratic and Democratic-leaning independent votes away from Crist.
It won't be easy. But Meek has survived the Jeff Greene Experience. Now he can get back to campaigning as the Democratic nominee.
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