Florida politics was slammed Thursday with the revelation that Bill Clinton had urged Democrat Kendrick Meek to drop out of the Senate race. Such a deal would help consolidate the base around independent Charlie Crist, which could keep Republican Marco Rubio from winning the seat.
As it happened, though, all parties involved have denied the story. Clinton is even coming back to Florida Monday night to stand with Meek and try to mitigate the damage.
But the question remains: How much did the story really hurt Meek? Even though Clinton denied the claims, did Democrats take it as a sign from party leadership that they should break rank and vote for Crist? Or did the suggestion that the party machine tried to push out a credible, black Senate candidate merely make voters more committed to his cause?
Meek’s campaign, unsurprisingly, argues for the latter. From the Palm Beach Post:
“This has been good for my campaign,” Meek told reporters this afternoon in Wilton Manors. “We’re seeing a surge in voter participation.”
Meek said he has been getting calls and e-mails from supporters urging him to stay in the race.
“It’s inspired them to vote,” he said. “It’s inspired them to call their family members, it’s inspired them to continue to insure that democracy reigns.”
The New York Times suggests voters may be pragmatically abandoning Meek:
Bill Clinton’s political bank shot appears to have hit its mark with many black Democrats who were lined up at the polls here Friday.
They were not voting for the Democratic congressman and neighbor they had long supported — Representative Kendrick B. Meek — but rather for Gov. Charlie Crist, a former Republican who is running for the Senate as an independent.
Both storylines are plausible, and it’s possible that both are true, within separate segments of the voting population. The bigger question is whether either trend will be enough to make a difference.