How Bill Clinton's Backroom Dealings in Florida Came to Be

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Bit by bit, reporters are piecing together last night's bombshell story about former President Bill Clinton's involvement in Florida's Senate race. On Thursday, Politico broke the news that Clinton had been trying to convince Florida Democrat Kendrick Meek to drop out of the race. The latest Quinnipiac survey places Meek in third place at 15 percent, behind Republican-turned-Independent Charlie Crist (35 percent) and Republican front-runner Marco Rubio (42 percent). Clinton's goal, which had approval from The White House, was to get Meek out of the race and deliver votes to Crist, who's substantially less conservative than Rubio.

Meek, of course, denies that any negotiations took place, despite the fact that scores of publications (and even Crist himself) are now confirming the scoop. The whole affair bodes poorly for Democrats, as Republicans cast the backroom dealings as shady and undemocratic. But how did the deal come to be? Political reporters and bloggers fill in the details:

  • The Specifics of the Deal  Major Garrett at National Journal reports:
Two Democratic sources said it was understood that if Meek dropped out the Crist campaign would finance Meek's travel around the state in hopes that he, though no longer a candidate, would motivate his supporters, many of them in the African-American community, to turn out. Some Democrats remain skeptical this strategy would have worked but acknowledge that no better options remained.
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... Clinton, according to Ben Smith of the Politico, calls Meek twice. Meek seems to Clinton to be on the verge of agreeing to the deal. What Meek gets out of it is not clear.  The deal isn't sealed...

Instead of shutting up, Crist appears on television to...fully confirm the story. He sends out a statement acknowledging the truth of the story while pretending to disdain the focus on process.  Really, it looks like Crist was trying to force Meek out of the race by disclosing the didn't-get-done deal.
  • So Why Didn't Meek Accept?  Ben Smith at Politico explains:
Clinton campaigned with Meek in Florida on Oct. 19 and 20, and thought he had won Meek over. But as the week wore on, Meek lost his enthusiasm for the arrangement, spurred in part, a third Democratic source said, by his wife’s belief that he could still win the race. Clinton spoke with Meek again at week’s end, three Democrats said, and again Meek said he would drop out.
  • Top Democrats Still Want Meek to Quit, writes Allahpundit at Hot Air: "The fact that Team Clinton is willing to go on the record about it means that they’re eager for Meek voters to take this story very, very seriously. In fact, they’re probably hoping that if a huge media storm erupts about this tomorrow in Florida, Meek might reverse course again and endorse Crist over the weekend. Which, coupled with two new polls showing Crist within seven points of Rubio (likely due to some of Meek’s voters starting to abandon him for strategic reasons), means … this may suddenly become a race again."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.